About The River is Home: “A charming excursion into a lost world.” —New York Times Book Review
About The River is Home: “I unreservedly recommend this novel. It is simply and powerfully written, with plenty of local color. The River is Home stands out in the reader’s mind as a work of art.” –New Orleans Times-Picayune
In 1950, Patrick Smith was a 23-year old who had grown up in a small Mississippi town during the Depression. Having been an avid reader from his early days and a writer whose local paper published his poems and sports columns, he finished writing a novel, but shelved it for two years, possibly apprehensive about it rejection and unsure of just how to get a book published. He finally showed it to one of his English professors at the University of Mississippi and received enough encouragement that – with some confidence – he sent it to Little, Brown and Company in Boston without an agent and without any fanfare. Probably to his amazement, they published it. Such is the printing history of Smith’s popular novel, The River is Home.
The River is Home was was first published in 1953 when Smith was just 26 years old. It met with critical acclaim and launched him into his career as a novelist.
At this time Smith was the owner of a Studebaker automobile dealership in Mendenhall, Mississippi. He also sold appliances out of this business. Writing was just a past time for him at this stage of his life. The photo above is of Smith in front of his automobile dealership, around 1952.
The story of The River is Home revolves around a Mississippi family’s struggle to cope with changes in their rural environment. It is the story of Skeeter, a young boy growing up in a family poor in material goods but rich in spiritual values, a family that lived in harmony with their surroundings.
Those surroundings consisted of swamps, woodlands and the ever-present river that connected them to civilization, provided them with an abundant food supply, and challenged them with periodic floods. How each member of the boy’s family did or did not adapt to the demands of the river is a study in contrasts.
The setting of the swamp, full of mosquitoes and gators would turn up again in Smith’s later Florida books, especially Forever Island and Allapattah.