She’s a go-to expert to discuss contemporary family life and preventive mental health in the media, with appearances that include WBUR Radio’s Morning Edition and WCVB’s Chronicle.
Q. You’ve written multiple family suspense novels that examine the—often times dysfunctional—familial bonds. What was the inspiration for Dark Rivers to Cross?
Lynne: At the core of all of my fiction is an examination of our closest relationships. Within families, there are always missed opportunities for sharing deeply, and so many slights and slip ups when it comes to communicating what is most important to us. All of this sets the stage for writing the family novel since compelling conflict is the hallmark of good storytelling.
The inspiration for Dark Rivers to Cross came to me well before the #MeToo movement. In my career as a counselor, over the years I’ve seen an evolution in how we think about and talk about family violence. Which isn’t to say we still don’t have a long way to go. I just felt that it’s time for this novel. Because at least now, readers can openly talk about these subjects, where once they were not able to.
Q. As an expert on relationships and family life, did you face any challenges when writing this book?
Lynne: There definitely were challenges in writing this story. I wanted to be true to the experience of relationship violence without being gratuitous or sensational, or unthoughtful to the reader. I made some narrative choices that allows the reader some distance from the most difficult scenes. And I included a content warning for those who may not be ready or able to read a story like this one. At every turn, it was my goal to handle this material sensitively.
Q. Being an internationally recognized family counselor, you must have seen it all. Did you learn anything new or surprising when doing research for this book?
Lynne: I love writing fiction to learn what I think about undiscussable subjects and to do research to uncover the latest thinking on particular topics. For Dark Rivers to Cross, I did a lot of reading and interviewing of experts about inherited trauma, adoption and identity, and the impact of bearing witness to violence at a young age. I learned a lot about these very important fields of study. Most notably, that there is great harm done to our relationships, especially between parents and children, when we keep painful secrets from each other.
Q. With your work in preventative mental health, how did that affect your approach when writing Dark Rivers to Cross?
Lynne: Working with families for as long as I have, I’ve learned that there is no one right way to be a good partner or loving parent. In Dark Rivers to Cross, I wanted to portray a flawed mother who is still able to pull the reader’s heartstrings. For all her missteps, I want readers to feel empathy for Lena and her sons.
Q. How does adoption play into your story and your exploration of mental health?
Lynne: Personally and professionally, I’ve heard a good deal from people who have been adopted. Notably, some are very eager, almost driven to learn their biological backstory. While others have no interest in knowing the details. A number of years ago, when the idea for the novel came to me, I had an inkling that I’d write a story in which two children were adopted from the same foster home. And as adults, one would want to know his backstory and the other would not. This conflict propelled Dark Rivers to Cross forward in every way. Once I chose to set the novel in the rugged landscape of northern Maine, I knew I was writing about nature in all its incarnations.
Q. Why do you think readers are so fascinated by books revolving around family dysfunction?
Lynne: I’m endlessly fascinated by family life stories and I think readers are too. Everyone knows the complexity of navigating sibling relationships and marriages. We desperately love our families, and still, some of our family members exasperate us, and the most vulnerable members often call on our better angels. It’s certainly true in every family I’ve ever known, including my own. What fiction allows us to do is experience someone else’s family vicariously, looking at other people’s lives and seeing what they do or don’t do to solve the most complex problems. Good stories get us wondering what we would do in similar circumstances, whether we’re grappling with the same issues in our own lives or not.
Q. When does a mother’s protection go too far? Is there a moment when Lena realizes she may have gone about protecting her boys in the wrong way?
Lynne: It’s a delicate balance for any mother to protect her children while also giving them space to learn and grow, to live their own lives and to make their own mistakes. It’s never been easy, and it never will be, to parent our children with an eye toward resilience. In this novel, that’s all Lena is ever trying to do. She wants her sons to be strong, to trust themselves. To be safe and to live peacefully. In order to make that happen, she makes a lot of good decisions. She makes a lot of bad ones too. She has the courage to stay in a difficult relationship and she has the courage to run. She trusts good people and very bad people. But in the end, all she’s ever wanted to do to show her love for her sons is to keep them safe. Whether or not they will forgive her for her choices is at the heart of the story.
Q. Can you explain what “inherited trauma” is and how that plays a role in Dark Rivers to Cross?
Lynne: There is a growing body of compelling research that suggests that adverse childhood experiences, such as family violence, parental substance use, poverty, among many other things, can impact the next generation. It turns out trauma has an impact of on both children’s biology and the way their parents relate to them. Dark Rivers to Cross explores the question: how much is a person’s characteristics formed by either nature or nurture.
Q What’s the one lesson you hope readers take away after reading about this family?
Lynne: It’s my hope that whether a reader is thinking about this family or their own, that they can find compassion for people who make mistakes—even very big ones—when it comes to parenting their children. Most women are doing the best they can to be courageous in the face of dire family circumstances. Contending with domestic violence takes enormous bravery, no matter what decisions women make for their families. At the heart of this story is a call for empathy, for ourselves and for other women.
Q What thrilling adventure can fans expect next from you?
Lynne: I’m hard at work on another domestic suspense story about the darker shadows of the motherhood fairy tale. It examines the psychological trials of parenting vulnerable children. At its emotional core are three women struggling to learn whether the desire to have children can ever match the reality of what it takes to love them fiercely.
Lynne Reeves's Latest
For two decades, Lena Blackwell has kept her sons at her side, teaching them everything she knows about running their successful river lodge in Northern Maine. But what she really wants is to keep her boys in the dark about their tragic past.
Her son Luke is right where he belongs, working at the family inn sheltered by acres of pine forest that stretch along the Penobscot River. So when his adopted brother, Jonah, threatens to upend their peaceful life by searching for his biological parents, Luke refuses to help.
Lena is determined to thwart Jonah’s search to uncover his own history. But the unexpected arrival of old friends at the inn for a weekend off the grid throws her plans into disarray. Little does she know, Jonah has already gleaned enough information to set in motion a deadly reckoning.
Luke may not want to know anything about his family, but he’s caught between the hard truths his brother is determined to expose and the devastating secret his mother is desperate to keep—at any cost.