Book Review: North River

Living in Greenwich Village just two blocks from the North River, Dr. James Delaney finds himself struggling with emotional baggage, the result of his service during World War I. Then came the abandonment of both his wife and their daughter Grace leaving the despondent and depressed doctor with the care of two-year-old grandson Carlito. Desperate, Delaney hires a Sicilian illegal alien Rose to work as housekeeper and babysitter while he tends the neighborhood sick and injured who, thanks to the Depression, frequently cannot pay with anything more then a meal or a simple thank you. Life was difficult during the 1930’s but when Delaney rendered emergency medical treatment to his old friend and gangster Eddie Corso, he inadvertently stepped in the middle of a Mob battle. Delaney has made a powerful enemy in Italian thug Frankie Botts. The good doctor isn’t afraid for himself but is rightfully concerned Botts may attempt to hurt him through Carlito or Rose, who has become much more then a mere housekeeper. To further complicate his life, the FBI insists Delaney hand them Grace despite the fact he has not heard or seen her since she ran off and dumped Carlito. Eventually Delaney comes to terms with the ruins of his life and begins moving on with help from those closest to him in a triumph of love over depression.

Hamill has recreated a richly textured version of old New York in this nicely paced exploration of devotion and love in all its many nuances. One can’t help but feel the hopelessness of the impoverished masses struggling to hold on through another winter’s bitter cold. Delaney is a compelling character as he struggles to remain a good man in the face of many trials and with the help Rose and his young grandson, learns to live and laugh again.


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