The River

A Jack Slack Shoebox Dialogue

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
292 Pages
Reviewed on 09/29/2018
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Author Biography

George Benda grew up in the Chicago area and studied at the University of Chicago during the 1970s. A lifelong environmentalist, George has led both public agencies and private companies in the pursuit of a sustainable world. His personal mission from his late teen years on has been to create modern philosophical dialogues that will help right the human relationship with our natural world. The River is the third in a series of books George has in preparation to fulfill that mission.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Kathryn Bennett for Readers' Favorite

The River (A Jack Slack Shoebox Dialogue) by George Benda takes readers back to the world of Jack Slack in this third adventure. The battle over water between Indiana and Illinois makes Jack the center of a scandal that reaches the highest points in national politics. Jack must find a way to keep everyone happy and protect the Marsh. Will he be able to do what his boss asks of him, but also protect the waterway? Or will he get swept up in a torrent over which he has little control?

I have to say this is my first book by author George Benda and certainly my first time spent with Jack Slack, but I am so glad that I found this book. While it is part of a series, I also feel - as someone who came to this fresh - it is a stand alone as well. I know there were some points I would have gotten better if I had read the previous books, but for the most part I was able to understand what was going on fairly simply. The way this book flows is absolutely perfect and it never misses a trick either; there is just something instantly captivating about the style that author George Benda uses to create his world of words.

There were times where I felt as if I was walking right along with the main character Jack Slack and having a conversation with him, and to me that is the hallmark of a book that is truly to be enjoyed. I love feeling as if I could just join the world of the book and in this case I certainly wanted to help save the Marsh! If you are looking for a fast and pleasant read that has great dialogue and is just an enjoyable book all round, I would recommend The River. I, for one, plan on going back and reading the books of this series that I missed, and I look forward to more.

Cheryl E. Rodriguez

George Benda’s The River: A Jack Slack Shoebox Dialogue keeps you thinking and rethinking from start to finish. Jack Slack opens the shoe box labeled “Kankakee” and begins watching the video journal inside the box. In the early 1970s, an “interstate battle” begins to brew between Illinois and Indiana. Jack is commissioned by the Governor of Illinois to head up the negotiations with the State of Indiana regarding the water rights of the Kankakee River basin. Jack and the Task Force team of researchers look to new science to solve a century-old problem. But, there is more than just the environmental science involved; politics and legal issues are thrown into the mix. Wherever Jack goes, trouble seems to follow. As the Task Force team digs deeper for a solution, the opposition raises its ugly head. Soon Jack’s relationship is in jeopardy and so is his life.

In his modern philosophical dialogue, The River, George Benda pens the age-old conflict of the war on water. Socrates states, “Men trapped in the cave would hold that the truth is nothing other than the shadows of artificial things." Benda uses Socrates’ allegory of the cave, the search for truth, for what is real, as the central theme of the narrative. Benda’s writing style is unique with its abundance of dialogue; the narrative reads more like a script than a novel. The plot is layered with multiple parallel conversations between a large cast of characters. Although heavy in truth-seeking, the conversations are lightened up with coffee and brownies, (my kind of thought process). The Prologue sets the stage, the chapters play out the story, and the Epilogue closes the curtain. The conclusion is endearing and satisfying, all the loose ends are tied up in an eloquent bow. George Benda’s personal mission to engage and enlighten readers regarding contemporary environmental issues is definitely achieved in The River.

Ruffina Oserio

If you love books that are focused and balanced, and stories with characters that have depth, then The River (A Jack Slack Shoebox Dialogue) by George Benda won’t disappoint; a story that captures the soul and spirit of an era brilliantly and explores a theme that has been recurrent in history — political conspiracy and corruption. Jack Slack is an enigmatic character, a man with many controversies to handle in his personal life. And now he receives a new mission from his boss; to be the bridge in the negotiations over the interstate water project agreement between Illinois and Indiana. Jack quickly learns that at the heart of this fray is a huge conspiracy involving top policy makers, and even the probability that a Senator may be out to sponsor his presidential campaign in the most unpopular and criminal of ways. Follow this character as he pursues the truth. But can he stay alive long enough to get to the heart of the matter with many enemies already wanting his head?

The River: A Jack Slack Shoebox Dialogue is written in an elegant style, with a focus on dialogues that drive the story. Readers will enjoy the dialectical approach to building dialogues and how the author uses dialogue to keep the reader engaged. Conflict is well developed and it is interesting to notice how it moves at different levels — personal, psychological, physical, and regional. The originality in the narrative is arresting and character development is impeccable. George Benda has won my heart with beautiful prose and the depth of characterization. It’s a gorgeous read with a strong historical setting.

Romuald Dzemo

The River (A Jack Slack Shoebox Dialogue) by George Benda is a tale with powerful political, historical, and cultural underpinnings. The setting is in the Grand Kankakee area and Jack is thrust into the middle of a conflict between Illinois and Indiana over water policy in the Kankakee River Basin. Charged with the difficult mission of appeasing the population and assisting in negotiating an agreement between Illinois and Indiana, he hardly imagined that he’d be uncovering a conspiracy that could constitute the greatest scandal ever in the history of the region. How does the US Senator plan to use this project to raise funds for his presidential campaign, and how far is he prepared to go to make it work? Jack is determined to dig to the bottom of a conspiracy that may sink him and his entire career. Can he tread carefully enough to avoid those who will do anything to stop him, including murder?

George Benda has written a novel that is so realistic, recalling to readers the scandals that have rocked the US political landscape in the past two years. The setting comes out beautifully and the conflict is brilliantly constructed and executed with a master’s touch. The River (A Jack Slack Shoebox Dialogue) features great writing, compelling dialogues, and an intellectually exciting and interesting narrative. Jack is a character that readers will enjoy; rock solid and crafted to reflect the vulnerability that readers will expect in the best of their characters. Fast-paced and plotted with great cunning, The River is a page-turner.

Grant Leishman

The River (A Jack Slack Shoebox Dialogue) by George Benda is the tale of a young, public policy scientist, Jack Slack, who is brought in to manage a difficult situation in the 1970s. The citizens of Illinois and the farmers of Indiana were at loggerheads on how best to manage the Kankakee River Basin, which flowed through both states and periodically caused significant flooding issues for Indiana and especially for its farmers. Jack has to navigate a wild confluence of political, moral and scientific intrigue to discover a solution that satisfies all parties and ensures that the beauty of the Kankakee River will remain for generations to come. In the process, Jack, his girlfriend, his friends and even his employer will become the target of unscrupulous politicians with their own agendas to feed and a willingness to indulge in violence and corruption. Set in the post-Watergate era, this story is one of local political intrigue and the search for “truth,” especially scientific “truth.”

George Benda has produced an interesting story here in which he attempts to combine philosophical discussion, scientific argument and practices, and a rigorous moral questioning with all the expected elements of a top thriller. Does he achieve this? To some extent, yes. The philosophical discussions I found particularly enjoyable and the idea of seeking not so much “the truth” of an argument, but going even deeper and searching for what is “truth” itself was quite fascinating. The writer uses a very clipped style, with short sentences and very short scenes. As a reader, I did find the constant chopping and changing between scenes at times distracting, but overall, the story flows well as Jack recounts, via the items stored in a shoebox, those tumultuous days of over 50 years ago, when he was just starting his career as a scientist and a public servant. The real animosity and rancor that had developed for over a century between its inhabitants regarding the Kankakee River Basin was well documented by the author and I found the read pleasurable and quick. This is a good thriller, with quite a lot more deep thinking involved than perhaps your average thriller. Kudos to the author for that.