River Bodies Summary & Study Guide

Karen Katchur
This Study Guide consists of approximately 60 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of River Bodies.
This section contains 805 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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River Bodies Summary & Study Guide Description

River Bodies Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on River Bodies by Karen Katchur.

The following version of this book was used to create the guide: Katchur, Karen. River Bodies. Thomas & Mercer, 2018.

Katchur splits River Bodies into 44 chapters and an epilogue in which the novel's protagonist, Becca Kingsley, is forced to confront a traumatic, gruesome memory from childhood which she had repressed. The story begins when Becca sees John Jackson - a man from her past - standing on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. Becca once resided in Portland, Pennsylvania - nestled among the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains - with her father Clint (the small town's chief of police for many years) and mother.

Now, as a woman in her thirties, Becca lives with her boyfriend of five years, Matt Goode, a budding young patent attorney. While Matt is seemingly compassionate, beneath the surface, he is manipulative and judgmental. He cheats on Becca, who comes to see him as being like her father, who cheated on her mother. Becca takes the opportunity to get away from life with Matt when she learns that a now-dying Clint needs her care.

While Becca is the protagonist of the novel, the narrative is not solely told through Becca's perspective. Instead, Becca shares it with John. John is the son of Clint's stepbrother, Russell. Russell (who is deceased) and Clint never saw eye-to-eye, as Clint was a man of the law and Russell led a motorcycle gang known as the Scions. At least, this is what the reader is led to first believe. Both men were feared - and respected - by the Portland community. Both Becca and John respected their fathers when they were younger. However, Becca has come to resent her father after the years of emotional abuse she saw her mother go through.

As the reader soon learns, John has just committed murder in order to please the Scions. He is in the process of dumping the body in the river when Becca spots him. This causes both John and Becca to rehash memories long buried - memories of a similar murder committed in the same area 20 years prior. Detective Parker Reed - the third perspective in the novel - is working the current case and just so happens to be Becca's childhood friend and crush. Through flashbacks, the reader learns that Becca's crush was reciprocated although the relationship did not come to fruition. After seeing Parker kiss another girl, teenage Becca got drunk and ended up at Sweeney's, the bar where the Scions hang out. John rescues Becca from the unwanted sexual advances of a fellow Scion and gives her a ride home on his motorcycle. Clint sees this and, furious, sends his daughter off to boarding school. When Parker asks Clint about what happened to Becca, Clint lies and tells Parker that Becca does not wish to have any contact with him.

In the present, John learns that Becca is in contact with Parker and worries that she might confess to him that, at age ten, she saw John in his barn, covered in blood with the bloody shirt of his first victim. Young Becca swore to keep this secret, but times have changed, and he knows Becca saw him dump his recent victim. He wants to remain loyal to the Scions but is unsure if he can kill Becca, who reminds him of his deceased wife, Beth.

When Clint dies, Becca realizes that she cannot keep her secret any longer. She confronts John in the woods, wielding her father's Ruger while John keeps the barrel of his shotgun pointed at her chest. Hap, the leader of the Scions, shows up and eggs John on to kill Becca. When it becomes clear Hap will shoot Becca if John does not, both John and Becca turn their guns on him and shoot. A bullet strikes Hap, killing him. Becca finally confesses to Parker, who then gets the tip-off from Rick, a detective who worked the first case, that he has a fingerprint from John that can be run against the partial fingerprint pulled from the rifle recovered from the current murder scene. That piece of evidence pales in comparison to the eyewitness account Becca gives Parker and Rick. This prompts them to head out to arrest John. However, the police do not get to John in time. He commits suicide using his rifle.

Becca is left to pick up the pieces of her life. She breaks up with Matt and remains in her father's house after he is cremated. She receives counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and begins a relationship with Parker, who announces he is getting a partner. In her final act of uncovering the past, Becca digs up John's knife, which she took from the barn at age ten and buried in her yard in order to help protect John.

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