When You Live By A River by Mermer Blakeslee, assignment help

timer Asked: Mar 28th, 2017
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read book When You Live By A River by Mermer Blakeslee, write 300 words discussion, and give two question at last. also reply this student's work ( this is no words limit ):

While reading Mermer Blakeslee's novel When You Live By A River I found that even though the writing is a bit slow, not to say that is a negative aspect of the book -merely something I noted, the characters and events that transpire left me wanting to finish instead of putting it down to complete later. This novel by Blakeslee tells the story of a community and family that lives in the Catskills and struggles with the death of a family member, raising a child, the politics of eminent domain, and many more moral obstacles faced in the 1930's. Leenie, the oldest child in her family of five girls finds herself leaving home at fifteen to raise her recently passed away Aunt Addie's child, in exchange her Uncle Willis will pay for her to attend college some time later on. Willis, or Digger as he insists on being called after his wife's death, is a character that must come to terms with his wifes death, and the girl now living in his home and raising his infant daughter.

What I truly enjoyed about the story was the dynamic change between these two characters. Leenie begins as a quiet, intelligent girl who, up until she goes to raise Rebecca -her niece, has taken care of her younger siblings while trying to stay her mother's temper and maintain her studies through reading. Yet, as the story progresses and she is faced with a child that is not her own, and understanding the functions of her own body in order to raise the child -we see Leenie begin to grow into a position of not only book knowledge, but wisdom regarding life, death, and this aching numbness in between. By the end of the story, Leenie has not only faced raising a child, but she has struggled to keep Digger together in his own life, and understand just where she stands in her family and in his household. In addition, to the difficult decision to have an abortion that she nearly dies from, Leenie also must make the decision to leave her uncle and go out to live her life so that she does not make the same decisions as her mother and end up -sour and angry the rest of her life.

Digger, on the other is a kind hearted man who begins in the novel clearly struggling with his religious beliefs -while not in line with the church -he has faith none the less and it makes his wife's death all that more difficult. This character of the quiet, hard working farmer was fascinating in that we see quickly Leenie is the source of change in his life throughout the book not necessarily Addie's death or even his daughter. It is in Leenie that Digger see's not only traces of Addie, but also a life after her and he slowly learns that while things may never be the same, Leenie does mean something.

To move on from what I enjoyed about the book, I had several questions while reading.

1. What is the importance or significance in Digger thinking of the name Rebecca while at the river? Throughout the novel we see the connection he has to the river, but in the end it is the presence of the river being so close by that forces him from his land. Is there some sort of connection to this idea of change and his faith that spurred him to think of a name for his daughter ( a major change in his life) while being at a river that would also drastically change his life as a farmer? In addition, just because I am curious of name meanings, is there any significance to the name Rebecca? Perhaps a religious meaning?

2. What happened to Leenie's sisters in the end? I know they are not main characters, but a majority of the book from Leenie's point-of-view and reflected heavily on her relationship with her sisters and how much she cares for them. We know that Leenie leaves and goes off to college and travels the world, and we understand that France goes to live with another aunt so that she may attend high school -yet we do not know what happens to Mary who Leenie shared her intelligence and odd thoughts with. We do not know if Frances also goes off to college, and while it may seem insignificant due to the fact they are not main characters, but I would argue that understanding what happened to her sisters would aid our understanding in Leenie's own future.

3. The break down of the novel into three parts. Was this structural choice, a concious decision to demonstrate the lay out of birth, life, and death? We see in the first section the introduction of the characters, and Rebecca was born at the start of the book seemingly giving way to life from the death of Addie. The second section dives into Leenie and Digger learning to live in the community they are in and live together to raise Rebecca. The third, not only sees the end of the book where Digger and Peggy pass away, but there is a heavy focus on death in this section with Leenies abortion, and the journal entry at the start of it discussing killing chicks. And just while I was reading it, the lay out of the novel being in three parts truly stood out to me as this discussion of birth, life, and death. Is this layout also linked to Digger's own religious beliefs, since we also see change in his own way of showing his faith?

Overall, I enjoyed the story line and the progression of the characters, and was pleasantly surprised that despite the easy going pace of the story -I found myself continuing to turn the page.

thank you very much!

Tutor Answer

School: Purdue University




Response to “When you stay by the River” by Mermer Blakeslee
Students’ Name
Institutional Affiliation



The story, “When you stay by the River,” by Mermer Blakeslee is one about a 15-year-old
girl, Leenie, whose family sees her as a great teacher of the future and feels that she should be
able to attend college. Addie, her uncle’s wife dies during her baby girl’s death and the work of
caring and nursing the new born child is assigned to Leenie. This also means taking care of
Willis, her uncle. In exchange for raising the small child, Willis, other family members, as well
as friends pay for Leenies’ college expenses.

It appears like change and learning for life experiences are inevitable throughout the
book. Leenie emerges to be a very interesting character in the story. She is a bright young girl
who has learned how to raise children from her personal experience with her siblings. She
catches things first and plays a major role in the change in the life of Digger. Not only that, her
life is full of change: the quiet girl adjusts very first into rearing a child and influencing Digger.
Digger’s lif...

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