American River: Confluence follows three families as they find a way to come together to celebrate life, art, and diversity. What direction did you take in this book that was different from the first two books?
I’ve always thought of a trilogy as being similar to the Sonata form in music—a musical structure consisting of three sections: the exposition (in which the main ideas are introduced), the development (in which those ideas are examined and explored) and the recapitulation (or resolution in which the main themes culminate in a conclusion). In this musical form, there might also be an introduction (or prologue) and a coda (or epilogue).
Because music is one of the main components of my writing, I had in mind the Sonata form as I developed the American River story.
Book One, American River: Tributaries, introduces the story of the three immigrant families and involves the reader in their struggles to overcome prejudice and to follow their dreams and ambitions. But it ends with a tragedy that further separates the characters from each other.
Book Two, American River: Currents, further explores the issue of discrimination and the struggle to overcome both external prejudice and internal delusions. Swept away by their passions, the characters find themselves flailing and unable to navigate the deep waters that threaten to destroy their dreams.
I knew that Book Three, American River: Confuence, would be about a resolution of some of the issues that my characters face, but they would also discover that in order to realize their unique destinies they would have to find a way to work together toward a common goal.
You are able to bring to light many perspectives on social issues without inserting your own opinion on the reader. What was the balance for you in discussing these topics?
A recent review posted by Literary Titan states: “O’Connor’s work involves a host of social issues—sexuality, politics, race relations—all disguised in what [first] seems to be a book about artists pursuing their passions.” Each of my characters has a particular role to play that reveals the social issues that affect them. They don’t all have the same views which allows them to interact with each other and voice their opinions. I wanted to help the reader understand that there are always at least two sides to an argument, so my characters represent different points of view as they attempt to navigate the rocky shoals of confrontation with each other. A discerning reader will likely be able to figure out where my sympathies lie, but I wanted an opposition to play off of. The characters end up debating the issues and the readers can decide who gives the most persuasive argument.
There are many characters and plots that run through the trilogy of books. Were you able to accomplish everything you set out to?
I doubt that most writers are able to accomplish everything that they’d like to include in a story. I had to make some pretty painful cuts during the many revisions, but I wanted to be sure that the story moved along and that the flow was not needlessly interrupted. In the end, I think I was able to address many of the problems that I hoped to cover—racism, sexual identity, mental health, political conflicts, women’s liberation, cultural differences—and to give the reader a lot to think about.
Do you plan on continuing the story of these families in another series or are you moving on to a new story in your next book?
I actually have an outline for three more books in the American River series subtitled Whitewater, Reflections, and Water Music. I thought it would be exciting to follow the thread of the character’s lives through another decade and see what they encountered. Maybe someday I’ll get to that.
But meanwhile, I’ve started another series of what I’m calling “psychic cli-fi.” I’ve been in touch with Dan Bloom, a climate activist and blogger who actually coined the term “cli-fi” for a new genre of “climate-fiction.”
For the past thirty years, I’ve researched psychic phenomena and I have a number of contacts in that area of interest. I’m also very disturbed about the rapid rate of climate disruption as warming temperatures upset the balance of nature. And I’m also concerned about what global warming will mean for our cultural treasures—works of art and architecture and their preservation in the face of social and meteorological upheavals.
So, with that in mind I’m working on a series of psychic novels that will address the issues of fracking, water resources, the spread of infectious diseases, climate-induced migration and other similar problems. My main character is a psychic medium who in the first book is called upon to work with a very skeptical PI who is an ex-FBI art crimes investigator. Again, the deep line that separates the world view of the two main characters will allow me to explore each of their views on a variety of topics that I believe are important—the nature of time, the impact of climate disruption, and the significance of our cultural heritage.
Book three of the American River Trilogy begins with the three families—the McPhalans, the Morales, and the Ashidas—in turmoil. Following Owen McPhalan’s death, his daughter Kate has inherited Mockingbird Valley Ranch only to discover that the once profitable family business is no longer sustainable. Desperate to find a way to save Mockingbird, she struggles to formulate a plan. But she hasn’t counted on the wrath of Dan Papadakis, Owen’s former campaign manager, who is working behind the scenes to undermine her efforts.
American River: Confluence is the culmination of a compelling historical drama about the lives, loves, triumphs and sacrifices of the descendants of three immigrant families who settled along California’s American River, and who are called upon to put aside a decade full of grievances and betrayals to try to save the history and legacy of their ancestral home.
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One type of story that captivates a large portion of readers is the story of humanity. The author, Mallory M. O’Connor, excels at capturing powerful moments of human interaction in her novel American River: Confluence. O’Connor’s work involves a host of social issues—sexuality, politics, race relations—all disguised in what seems to be a book about artists pursuing their passions.
This book follows three families of different cultures that manage to connect. They are all tied to the same area, and while the young adults have mostly wandered off to different regions of the U.S., this story is about them all finding a reason to come home to celebrate life, art, and diversity which gives the story a greater sense of symmetry. O’Connor filled this book with real-life problems such as racism, mental health issues, sickness, and political confrontations. Therefore, this book can be a guide for helping people navigate their way through similar tragedies in their own life.
The overall story arc is intricate and well thought out. It is a little unclear where the book is going at first and what the focal point will be, but there are exciting turns everywhere that keep the readers’ attention until the end. Several subplots play out to give the book a lot of depth. On the surface, it seems like the McPhalan family is working through their problems with the ultimate goal of setting up a musical festival on Mockingbird Valley Ranch, the family’s ancestral property. Underneath, O’Connor raises awareness of many social issues. These social issues are picked apart one by one to allow the reader to think through different perspectives regarding them. While set in the 1970’s, the problems the characters face are problems that are prevalent in our society today, potentially making this book a timeless classic.
If you did not read the previous books to get familiar with the intricacies of the story you would need to refer to the “Cast of Characters” page at the beginning. The book immerses readers from the start with drama and doesn’t let up until the end, so lacking thorough character introductions early in the story, even though its the last of the series, can detract from the impact of certain events. I highly suggest you read books one and two before confluence.
American society, as well as many others around the globe, could drastically benefit from reading this book. While many authors hide a political agenda in their work, it’s often obvious where they stand on controversial issues; O’Connor, on the other hand, hid her feelings on many of the topics, which requires distinct talent. Ultimately, she encourages discussion and introspection through the characters. If it weren’t for some minor language concerns, this book would be well suited in a high school reading curriculum to expose students to the complexity of the world they live in and the core of human nature.
Pages: 364 | ASIN: B07HL12C8T
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American River: Tributaries follows three immigrant families struggling to pursue their dreams during the turbulent 1960’s. What served as your inspiration while writing this book?
My love of Northern California, the place where I grew up, and the wonderful history of the area. I was also inspired by my love of art and music and my passion for social justice issues. Immigration and ethnic diversity are the cornerstones of the story.
This book has so many fascinating characters that are well developed. What were some themes you wanted to capture in your characters?
Basically, the story focuses on the creative search for meaning, knowledge, compassion and understanding in a tumultuous world filled with prejudice, obstacles, jealousy, and betrayal. As my characters encounter these obstacles, they discover their own strengths and weaknesses and grow beyond their self-centered ambitions.
I thoroughly enjoyed the historical backdrop to the story and how well researched it was. What historical milestones were important for you to highlight in this book?
The Gold Rush had a tremendous impact on the population and culture of California. Before the Gold Rush, the population consisted mainly of Native Californians and Californios (settlers and landowners of mixed Spanish, Native Californian, and African descent). But gold fever brought people to California from all over the country and the world. The Anglo Americans (of English, Irish, or Scots descent), other Europeans (including Italians, Russians, Greeks and East Europeans), Chinese, Japanese, African Americans, and many more who came and stayed. This changed the makeup of the state’s population making it one of the most ethnically diverse in the country. So, this cultural diversity sets the scene for later entanglements.
Most of the story takes place in the 1960s, that decade that Time Magazine recently termed “The decade that changed a generation.” So, I take the reader down memory lane as my characters encounter the major issues of the time: immigration, racial prejudice, migrant workers, gay rights, women’s rights and the Vietnam War.
This is book one in the American River Trilogy. What can readers expect in book two, American River: Currents?
In Book Two, American River: Currents, a cavalcade of disasters—both personal and public—threatens to overwhelm the scattered members of the McPhalan, Ashida, and Morales clans. Alliances fray, relationships dissolve, divisive secrets are revealed, and promises are broken as the members of three California families struggle to salvage their shattered dreams. The story follows the character’s journeys to places as distant as Cleveland, Ohio, Venice, Italy, and Kyoto, Japan. From the concert halls of Europe to the artist’s lofts of Manhattan, American River: Currents is filled with passionate and resolute characters who refuse to let go of their unique visions of success—even as life’s tumultuous currents threaten to sweep them all away.
Owen McPhalans Mockingbird Valley Ranch is still a thriving family business in 1959. But when his wife, Marian, leaves Mockingbird to follow her dream of becoming a successful artist, she ignites a firestorm that impacts the descendants of all three families. As artists, musicians, writers, and politicians inherit their immigrant parents hopes, they are torn apart by ambition, prejudice, and deception while struggling through the turbulent 1960s. From the concert halls of Europe to Kyotos ancient avenues, and Manhattans artists lofts to San Franciscos North Beach, they each learn the price they must pay in order to realize their dreams. But just as the river is drawn to the sea, they eventually find themselves pulled back to the place that forged the original link between their destiniesa place called Mockingbird.
American River: Tributaries follows three California families as the descendants of Irish, Japanese, and Mexican immigrants embark on unique journeys to pursue their dreams amid an unsettled 1960s world.
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