This book was published in 1960, but I’ve never heard of it. It was short and had good reviews so I decided that I would read it.
This book is about a man named John Donner. He’s driving back to his hometown, but the thing is, he can’t get there ever again. His hometown of Unionville was flooded to create a water reservoir and dam. The purpose was of course to provide water to surrounding communities and also hydroelectric power.
Driving up to town, everything looks the same, but then, there is a large dam and a large lake where there wasn’t one before. John happens to be an author. He has money. He’s lived his life; he just wants to go home. The guards at the dam are reluctant to let him in. He wants to explore what is left. He finally gets in by saying that he wants to see the cemeteries. The people who built the dam had to move several cemeteries. They don’t have the character they used to and they feel quite dead, but here are the bones of his family that died before him. As he sneaks around, where he shouldn’t, he spies a wagon, which is strange for several reasons. First of all, no wagons could get where this wagon is now because there is a lake in the way. Second of all, nobody drives a wagon anymore. When John was a boy people drove wagons, but not anymore.
John goes to the man in the wagon, surprisingly, he’s real. He asks for a ride into town. The man is going to Unionville. John is astounded to find himself actually going to Unionville. There are all the old buildings. There are the churches, his father’s store, and his aunt’s house. It’s all there. Nobody is driving a car. There are only buggies.
At first, John tries to speak with his father. It is soon made known that John has gone back in time. His father is just starting to leave for school to become a preacher, this was when John was only a young boy. His father is not as polite to him as he expects. He doesn’t know John as a grown man. He tries is aunt next, but she doesn’t know him either. Another relative seems to know him, but everyone thinks he’s crazy. Nobody recognizes the grown up John.
John wants above all else to see his mother, but his mother cannot come because there has been a family death, John’s grandfather. John somehow passes out. He finds himself being looked over by several people. They think he had a stroke. They put him to bed. His mother cannot come, but she sends John himself, the young John. The older John knows what the young John thinks about and about the voice he hears every once in a while. Soon the woman whose house it is say’s it’s time to go.
What I liked
This book is definitely mysterious. None of this is ever really explained. How did John travel back in time? Why did it happen? Did it really happen? Did he just pass out? Did he really have a stroke? If he was able to go back and change the past, how come nothing changed in current time line? Did John ever recover from this?
The thing is, we don’t know if John makes it out of Unionville alive or if he doesn’t. Maybe he really did have some sort of stroke and Unionville was simply a last glimpse of his life before he drifted off into death.
Conrad was very good at describing the surroundings. If you read his writing you can imagine the lake and the trees and all the other things that John talks about. You can see Unionville in your head. Conrad was really able to make the whole thing come to life.
This story borders on being a ghost story and I like that.
What I didn’t like
I feel bad for John Donner. He just wanted to revisit his past, see his home one last time, see the people he loved one last time. Nobody recognized him. His past didn’t recognize him as his future. Isn’t that how it should work though? Shouldn’t we improve so much that our past life couldn’t recognize our future life? Ideally, I think that’s how it should work. I don’t think you should be able to go back in time to when you were ten and be recognized by your past life, that means you didn’t do enough to change yourself and make yourself better.
On the other hand, maybe your past doesn’t recognize your future because you’ve went wrong. Maybe you turned down the wrong roads and made the wrong choices. Maybe that’s something the past you would have never done and your past would be disappointed to know how you’ve turned out. It cannot recognize you because your past never imagined that you would turn out to be a drug dealer or an adulterer or whatever.
When John goes back into the past he knows the future of the people there. He knows that there are several people who will be murdered. He knows there are several people who will die of tuberculosis. He knows this is going to happen, but he can’t do anything about it. Nobody recognizes him and everyone just thinks he’s crazy. Nobody is going to listen to his rantings about murderers and TB. He can’t do anything to save these people. That’s a downer right there.
All around, John gets disappointed by his past life.
I have never, NEVER, understood why anyone would want to go back to being a former age, especially a child age. John remembers his childhood days fondly, but going back is not easy for him and nothing turns out in his favor really. I guess this story is a good way of saying don’t dwell in the past. The past is the past; move forward.
Would you go back into your past to revisit everyone and everything knowing that you would not be recognized and you could not prevent any of the horrible things that you know would happen?
Are you of the mind that your past self should not recognize your future self or are you of the mind that you should always be able to recognize yourself no matter when it is?
conrad richter, dammed up the river, going back in time, john donner, kronos river, lake, seeing the past, the waters of kronos, The Waters of Kronos by Conrad Richter, time travel
Family dynamics, Fantasy, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Mystery, Richter-Conrad, Science Fiction, what if