Barbara Corcoran E. Coston Frederick - Essay

E. Coston Frederick

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

May I Cross Your Golden River? was a disappointing book to me. In fact, at several points I became angry at how the author treated the story and characters….

Some of the dialog among and between the family members was exceedingly well-done, especially with the youngest brother, Skip. However, too many of the situations and relationships were hackneyed to the point of frustration. Within the first few pages the reader knows that Jordan's girl friend is not the "right girl" for him, and that the girl next door is much nicer.

In an attempt to achieve relevance with young people, the author made the usual mistake of trying to affect a contemporary speech pattern. The result was not good. Too many slips such as "movie houses" and "schooners" of beer demonstrated the difficulty adults have in bridging the language generation gap.

The most disturbing element of the book was, to me, the broken promise. In the fly leaf is this statement: "Just what are life—and death, and how do people learn to accept both? The answers were not easy to find, and some of them came from unexpected sources."

The author did not develop the theme. There really was no conflict. Everyone in the Phillips family approached sainthood; no one became hysterical or overly despondent; no one really approached the question: What are life—and death? And no real answers were found.

Perhaps that's what the author intended. Perhaps the author meant the story to be something such as: "The daily life and thoughts of a dying boy." As such, the story is low-keyed, not terribly unpleasant, and the reader will get to the end with a tear in his eye.

But the promise of something deeper was made, and the story didn't deliver on the promise. Some readers won't care and thus will enjoy the story; but other readers will come to the end of the story angry, with a sense of waste.

E. Coston Frederick, "Books for Young People: 'May I Cross Your Golden River?'" (copyright 1976 by the International Reading Association, Inc.; reprinted with permission of the International Reading Association and E. Coston Frederick), in Journal of Reading, Vol. 19, No. 6, March, 1976, p. 509.