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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 467

The Other Side of the River is Alex Kotlowitz’s book that examines the disappearance and death of a Michigan teenager and what his death says about race in the Michigan towns of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, and in America in general.

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The author begins by establishing the dangers of the rivers and lake by noting that,

Drownings are common occurrences around here, sometimes as many as three to four in a year. The area, after all, is surrounded by water. The St. Joseph River slices through the county, its languid surface hiding a sometimes tricky current. The narrower and shallower Paw Paw River feeds into the St. Joseph just upstream from the Coast Guard station; its mucky bottom once devoured a car that had swerved off the road, trapping the driver. And just two hundred yards downstream from the Coast Guard station, the St. Joseph empties into Lake Michigan, which at times can rise up in a fury, whipping eight-to-ten-foot swells onto the two piers. The force of those waves has swept fishermen and foolhardy teens into roiling water where even the strongest of swimmers have a difficult time staying afloat.

The author is beginning the story with the idea that the rivers are dangerous and that drowning is a common occurrence in this part of Michigan. If drownings are so common then why would the death of Eric McGinnis become an obsession for Kotlowitz?

Kotlowitz in his prelude, lets the reader know that his “interest in the death of Eric McGinnis borders on obsession.” He situates his obsession when he says that he has “come to realize" that his research had become an obsession

after conducting over two hundred interviews, after scouring, countless times, the six-inch-thick police report, after listening to...

(The entire section contains 467 words.)

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