Downriver by Jeanne Leiby - Review and Giveaway

January 29th, 2008 by Diane

Downriver by Jeanne Leiby is a collection of hard-edged stories placed in the setting of downriver Detroit, Michigan. Each of the 15 stories gives a glimpse into industrial-gray neighborhoods filled with hardworking people struggling to survive. The true-to-life characters all hold onto a hope of something better in their future while striving to make sense of their imperfect present.

One thing I appreciate about Leiby’s style is her ability to allow the characters to be flawed. There’s no powdered makeup and extra lip gloss on them. They are what they are, and we see the sides to them they’d probably rather hide, and this is what gives her stories a unique voice. Secrets are exposed, secrets I doubt the characters even admit to themselves. Despite their flaws, or maybe because of them, the characters are likable, and one can relate to their views of a difficult world. Like Detroit itself, they struggle to be something better and oftentimes fail.

There is no better time for a book like Downriver, since the city of Detroit often finds itself in the news, trying to stay afloat while it wrestles with a tough economic situation. Leiby’s stories put a human face to the articles we see in the evening paper and will change the way we read the headlines.

If you’d like to win a free copy of Downriver, please leave a comment on this post telling me what intrigues you about the book. Subscribers to carp(e) libris are automatically entered to win this and every book given away at this site. Leaving a comment here gives subscribers a second entry. A winner will be randomly drawn on Friday, February 1, 2008, at 12:00 p.m. EST and announced as soon as I have contacted the winner.

Downriver is published by Carolina Wren Press.

Posted in Book Review and Giveaway

69 Responses

  1. Danielle

    What intigues me about this book is the fantastic way you describe it!
    Enter me please!
    dansan826 at yahoo

  2. PS

    I would love to read this book and then pass it along to my friend who has just finished putting together her book of photography intitled The D, basically about the same thing.

  3. Bree

    The secrets of the characters intrigues me!

  4. Stephanie

    I would love to compare it to my fathers childhood.

    [email protected]

  5. Becca

    We may be moving to the Detroit area when my husband finishes grad school, so I’m interested in reading this.

  6. mary512

    I just love short stories, and true to life stories are so intriguing.

  7. Susanne

    I actually like biographies so true to life stories are some of my favorites…Thanks!

    stbaisch AT

  8. Qtpies7

    Wow, this sounds like a great book!

    I am adding you to my giveaway blog!

  9. P. J. Grath

    Another one I need to order for my bookstore! Thanks again, Diane. For your readers who love short stories and are interested in Detroit, also, let me recommend VOICES OF THE LOST AND FOUND, by Dorene O’Brien, and EIGHT DOGS NAMED JACK AND OTHER STORIES, by Joe Borri. Wonderful writing coming out of the motor city.

  10. Stormy5475

    I love reading about “TRUE GRIT” True family Bio’s are my favorite, reading about how hard things are and how others “Manage” make me feel my life is so fully blessed and makes me feel my trials are so small compared to others, and I should stop complainig when I dont get what I want..
    [email protected]

  11. ikkinlala

    What intrigues me about this book is that you say the characters are likable. I’ve been struggling through another Margaret Atwood novel (at the suggestion of a good friend, or I would have quit reading it by now) and am not finding that I like the characters at all, so it would be nice to read something that’s easier to relate to.

    Also, I’m always looking for good short story collections because I can read them between classes without getting sucked in and showing up late like I often do when I read novels.

  12. windycindy

    Hello, I really love books of all kinds and enjoy reading! I have not read any book that has profiled down river Detroit. Yes, I hear bits and pieced on the news, but I am sure these stories are much more down to the nitty gritty…..Thanks for sponsoring a wonderful contest!

  13. Jenny

    This books looks and sounds really interesting. I am really intrigued by the little girl on the cover. She looks like she leads a hard life.

  14. Geri

    Great Giveaway!! Thanks for the fun!
    [email protected]

  15. Daughter of the King

    My ancestors come from this area so this REALLY intrigues me…my grandma lived on McDougall….I would give anything to see her house..and other grandma lived in Redford Township…fond memories..


    yesipray at gmail dot com

  16. KnittinChick

    You talk about that book like a reader… someone who loves a good read! Sign me up. I’d love it!

  17. Rachel

    Oh sign me up please!!

  18. The Autumn Rain

    What intrigues me? The words “industrial-gray neighborhoods”. Sometimes it just takes a phrase, no?

  19. Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings

    Sounds very intersting.

    Count me in please.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    Stop by my place to win a bath set & candles or one of two copies of a book I’m giving away. Don’t miss the daily edition of contests galore that I post on my blog.

    Laura @ Laura Williams’ Musings

  20. Faerie Mom

    industrial gray neighborhoods? Sounds like true stories… real life! Thanks for the chance to win this and read it!

  21. Sara

    Looks like a fascinating book. I love the girl on the front with the candy necklace in her mouth. I remember eating those and getting the sticky string all over my shirt.

  22. Tidy Bowl

    Short stories, true to life? I’m intrigued by the whole thing!
    Count me in!

  23. mom to p

    Sounds like a good read!
    mom [at] theparentingdiaries dot com

  24. The Trier and Jen

    Please enter me
    [email protected]

  25. The Chatty Housewife-

    Anything true intrigues me, I love reading others stories. The little girl on the photo is intriguing!


  26. Julienne

    As a true lover of books and especially sociology books, this book has me captivated!


  27. Di

    I have been to Detroit and was impressed by its dedicated working class and the dearth of foreign cars! Also, two of my friends are proud to hail from Detroit and I think I would like to share the book with them.

    I am usually not a huge fan of short stories, but your review has captured me.

  28. Nancy

    The fact that these short stories tie in with current real life stories is what is intriguing to me.
    njones127 at tampabay dot rr dot com

  29. Jane Marie

    I’m in Western Michigan and we have a bad opinion of Detroit here.
    Maybe this book could change my mind on the city that dominates our state and seems to define it to the rest of the country.

  30. marlayne

    interesting book, i would love to win a copy!

  31. Athenaweeena

    A human story with real Americans living their real lives, it would be a nice change from the Hollywood world we’re given everyday. Love to read it.

    [email protected]

  32. Lizardbreath

    I visited Detroit a few years ago and found it very different from New England and have been intrigued by the location ever since. So that alone makes this book sound good.

  33. Mama Zen

    I’m intrigued by the realism you describe.

  34. Team Zachary

    I love the opportunity to read about locations I’ve never been to. And I love the cover of this book :-)

    Thanks for offering this awesome opportunity for the giveaway! You are very generous! Good luck to all!

  35. Manders

    I’d live this, for myself and my children. I don’t want them to think that a person is better or worse than the next because of where they live. You describe this so nice.

    Thanks and good luck.

  36. jayedee

    i love “flawed” characters. life ain’t purty…give me realism!
    very nice giveaway! please throw my name into the hat too……good luck everyone!

  37. Taryn

    Thanks for hosting a great giveaway!

  38. Melanie

    I’d love to read this book. Reading about something so close to home really grounds you with some harsh realities of other’s hard lives.

  39. ahiltz

    Oh, how cool! This book really intrigues me because I was born and raised in Detroit! This sounds super interesting and am really hoping I win so I can read it and pass it on to my family memebers to read (I have 9 brothers and sisters!). Thanks so much for doing this!

    [email protected]

  40. lev53211

    i like the realism. thanks for the giveaway!

  41. Lesha

    Thanks for the giveaway :)

  42. Snowbird

    I would love to read this. I use to live in the downriver area and still have many friends who live there. This sounds like a really interesting book.

  43. Teri

    It sounds great! Thank you!

  44. anne

    This book sounds fascinating and I love human interest stories which tug at the heartstrings and are memorable and special.

  45. The Mom of 'em

    Real people - real scenarios…the book sounds fantastic!

  46. JaniceJ

    This sounds like such a good book, I would love to read it. Thanks for the giveaway!

  47. Holladay Family

    Beautiful Book. So, Thank you for you having such a generous giveaway! I would LOVE to win!

    My email is holladayfam(at)gmail(dot)com.

    Thanks again!

  48. Wired Wilsons

    you’re review is very compelling - it’s a story (hard times) that could related to any place, really. I’d love to check it out, and share it with our bookclub.

  49. Rochirmil

    What intrigues me is the way you make it sound like such a wonderful book to read!

  50. Marcia

    What intriques me is that my uncle worked in Detroit for many years in a GM plant.

  51. Anonymous

    Dearest Diane,
    I just read all of your reviews. The first to the last. All I can say is: My dear, I am so proud of
    you and your unique way of writing.
    God has blessed you with such wit!
    Thank you for your smile. Thank you for my grandchild!
    Love, Dad

  52. Lettie

    I love new books!

  53. Shama-Lama Mama

    The book intrigues me because my dad is from working-class Detroit. It might give me insight into his youth. Plus, I love short story books, since with three boys, including twin toddlers, short stories are all I have time for! Thanks!

  54. Paige

    That looks interesting.

  55. Melanie

    I love a book that totally immerses me in a new setting, that makes me feel like I live there myself.

    rookiem at live dot com

  56. Linda

    Please enter me! [email protected] I like the cover. The book sounds very interesting. I definetely understand trying (and sometimes failing) to be better.

  57. Piseco

    I love books that are a collection of stories about the same theme / place / object. This book sounds great. Thanks for the contest!

  58. kelly

    It intrigues me how people find the strength every morning to get up and face the world.

  59. Tanya

    It intrigues me because it sounds real and yet uplifting. I need that right now.

  60. The Vece Fam

    It sounds real. So many times, I read books and they are so far out there that it just isn’t believable.

  61. Michelle

    I’m intrigued — I’m from Detroit and my best friend lives Downriver! I’d love to read the book and share it with her! mlciavola(at)yahoo(dot)com.

  62. Jennifer/The Word Cellar

    As a writer, I love books of essays. And as someone from the Pittsburgh area, I’m intrigued by the Detroit setting. I hear a lot of comparisons between the two cities.

  63. nor_lou


  64. Ginny

    I live right by Detroit, have all my life. I used to live in East Detroit, but we are bit farther away now. I would enjoy this book very much, I hadn’t heard of it. Thanks for the great away, I hope I win!!

  65. Erica G

    I was bornin Detroit and my husband grew up there. Funny, we met in Florida. Detroit really interests me because of my husband’s stories. I always wondered how and if my life woould be different if my parents would’ve stayed there.

  66. My name is Michelle.

    Oh of my favorite books is Nickled and Dimed. My passion and heart are with the working poor.

  67. Karen

    I love true life stories of people, especially of those who have had struggles similar to mine in life, yet they are brave enough to bare their souls to the world. Thanks.

    kpuleski at gmail dot com

  68. amylou61

    What intrigues me about this book is that it is about real hard-working people.

  69. Anonymous

    This looks like an interesting read.


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