Picture the popular jock, the beautiful girl who wants more out of life, and the outcast traversing high school life. Now, cue the backdrop of a small town surrounded by the woods and dammed lake with nothing to do but hang out at the local cinema and café-barbershop. This is the foundation for Robin Cody’s Ricochet River, a coming-of-age story that exemplifies the all-too-familiar awkwardness and angst that accompany growing up. However, Cody reinvigorates the recognizable structure with an unequivocally Oregonian flare. He echoes back to a deeper understanding of nature and a sought-after freedom that is oftentimes lost as we struggle to form identities and fit into an increasingly complicated world. It is appropriate, then, that Ricochet River will receive a twenty-fifth anniversary edition and introduce a new generation of readers to a journey of (re)discovery.
Wade—the star athlete of Calamus—embodies the aforementioned sentiments and a longing for more. He has difficulty articulating such feelings due to his confined status as a citizen of Calamus. He rarely questions authority, whereas his girlfriend Lorna is quick to criticize the small-mindedness of the townspeople and the insidious nature of Calamus. Like an audacious child, Wade imagines a future where, “We’ll build a raft, a great big one, out of cedar that will float high in the water … we’ll launch it where the water starts blue below the dam and just follows the current, let current take us, where it will” (44–45). His desires reflect maturity and a deep, lost understanding that links him to Lorna and their Native American friend Jesse as they breach the borders of life in Calamus.
Jesse sees what Wade must learn. From the beginning, where Wade sees déjà vu, Jesse sees vujà dé: “That weird feeling you’re the first one out here. Nothing in the world has ever happened before” (9–10). The trio develops a symbiotic relationship with nature that liberates them, frees them like the flowing of the current, brings them into being.
I’d forgotten that a river doesn’t exactly take aim at things. It winds through a lot more country than a road does. A river ricochets down the valley, deflecting and echoing what it wants to say. Maybe it’ll get you thinking about the salmon and all that, but the river won’t take you straight there, either (70).
There is complexity to life and a relationship with nature that the town has long forgotten. And Wade must surrender control, let go of what he has come to know through Calamus to find himself and see life through Jesse’s eyes. With the twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Ricochet River, so too will readers.