The Dark Path to the River

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Published by: Open Road Distribution
Release Date: March 29, 2016
Pages: 402
ISBN13: 978-1504030342


“Well-written, thematically rich. I fell in love with the characters. I didn’t want the pleasure to end.”
—Barbara Kingsolver, Poisonwood Bible

The Dark Path to the River is a love story, one of strong-minded women and men who do not see the world the same. It is a story of power and politics on Wall Street and in Africa. It is also the story of two women, friends and journalists, one black and one white, of their search for empowerment and of the men who both shape and are shaped by their worlds.

Olivia, a journalist whose career has slipped off course, is trying to recoup lost prestige by tracking a political confrontation at the United Nations that involves revolutionary leaders from an African country where she’s spent many years. Jenny, Olivia’s longtime friend and colleague, faces confrontation on the domestic front when Kay, a fellow reporter whose career is soaring, returns to New York to cover the same U.N. story. Kay makes a play for Jenny’s husband Mark, a principal in a successful merchant bank on Wall Street that does business in the African country. Jamin Nyo, an African leader dedicated to rescuing his country from its corrupt president, has come to New York on a mission that will make him a murderer—or a dead man. And Robert Nyral—serene, wise, once Jamin’s compatriot and mentor—believes one must see through evil’s guise and so deprive it of its power.

A regional best seller, The Dark Path to the River follows the intertwining lives of these six characters and gives readers action and drama, suspense and intrigue, in a complex morality play. A big-hearted novel, it opens windows on issues central in the lives of many women—and more and more men—today. It probes the links between money and power, fidelity and freedom, the seductions of evil and the influence of moral action.


“Author Joanne Leedom-Ackerman knows suspense like Hitchcock, and her tale has the momentum of “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” But what distinguishes this novel is its characters…. [They] must find their own paths to faith, and their journeys give this fine novel its power.”
—The Washington Post 

“Joanne Leedom-Ackerman’s first novel is a densely plotted, dialogue-filled story that reads like commercial fiction yet examines unconventional territory….She is particularly successful in building suspense…Her writing is often sensitive and ambitious enough to keep the reader interested in both the political and personal spheres she explores.”
—The New York Times Book Review

“Previous reviewers have said that Joanne Leedom-Ackerman writes a good short story; she certainly writes a good novel….This is a book that provokes thought and is most entertaining to read.”
—The Los Angeles Times

“Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, whose roots are in Dallas, has written a powerful and compelling first novel in The Dark Path to the River. The story’s power comes from its daring and imaginative scope, its sense of humanity and human connectedness and its perspectives across the lines that usually bind people and across the ‘small’ events of life and the larger events which come to be called history.”
—The Dallas Morning News

“Leedom-Ackerman spins this convoluted tale masterfully…An unusual blending of political and conjugal turmoil in a novel that’s intelligent, probing.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“In this multifaceted first novel, the fate of a small, unidentified African country is enmeshed with the future of an independent investment firm and with the convoluted ties of three women who once competed as journalists on a Boston newspaper…This complex novel effectively combines an intimate interpersonal drama with a story of power and politics.”

“I’ve just finished The Dark Path to the River and feel compelled to write. I haven’t enjoyed a book so much in a long time. You know, there are books you keep reading because you are convinced that they are well-written and thematically rich, etc., and then there are the books that are all those things and ALSO you can’t put them down. The Dark Path to the River fell in the latter category for me. I fell in love with Olivia and Jenny and wanted to strangle Kay and Mark and just altogether was taken in. That doesn’t happen to me often, and I appreciate it a lot. I didn’t want the pleasure to end. I’m so glad I have your other novels to look forward to.”
—Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

“The Dark Path to the River is a knockout of a novel—impressive in its scope but at the same time intimate and personal in the telling. Joanne Leedom-Ackerman makes a blazing debut as a novelist with this richly dramatic and deeply felt portrayal of men, women, and an emerging nation all struggling to find their identity without sacrificing their integrity. I was enriched and enlightened by this extraordinary book…”
—Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, A Woman of Independent Means

“The Dark Path to the River gave me hours of pleasure…I was riveted by the book and so impressed with the scope and depth of its ambition…I was fascinated by the friendships, and how accurately you dramatized the agonies we feel when we grow apart into our differences. Thank you!”
—Honor Moore, Mourning Pictures


Before I turned full time to writing fiction, I was a journalist. The Dark Path to the River begins at the juncture between those two worlds. The novel features two women journalists as the central characters and considers the objective and subjective nature of reality both for the individual and for political bodies.

I was living in New York City when I began the book; I had left the newspaper where I was a reporter to concentrate on fiction. My apartment in New York was the hotel for many of my colleagues, especially those who were on their way to or from assignments abroad.

At one point a close friend was in town covering Yassar Arafat’s visit to the United Nations. She had spent considerable time in the Middle East interviewing the PLO, and she knew many of its members. The discontinuity between the personal lives of these individuals and their public lives and the public perception of their lives intrigued me both as a novelist and as one interested in politics and in the way personal life affects public policy and political reality.

Staying in my apartment at that same time was another friend on her way to Africa as a correspondent. Africa, not the Middle East, became the back story of The Dark Path to the River because my own interest lay there and because the political drama in the Middle East seemed more defined and settled in peoples’ minds. By creating an unnamed country in Africa, I felt I was in a more fluid place of imagination.

The Dark Path to the River actually takes place in New York City, but the book attempts to bring African characters and themes into the middle of New York and to bind the domestic confrontation of Jenny with the political confrontation Olivia is tracking at the U.N. The challenge for me in writing this book was to tie the personal and the political together and to move out of the realm of journalism into the realm of serious fiction.


Olivia Turner stood under the heaters on the marble steps of the Plaza Hotel waiting for the doorman to hail her a cab. She had no money, not even enough to tip the doorman, who came back soaking with her taxi. When the driver asked her destination, she asked him the time. "Twelve ten," he said.

"Eighty-ninth and Riverside," she answered. She looked out the window at the lights on Fifth Avenue. The stores were illuminated even at this hour, bright empty windows along the dark streets. As the driver turned west on 57th Street, she leaned her head against the seat, drew her coat around her and fell asleep.

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