River People centers around seventeen-year-old Effie and eleven-year-old Bridget in the late 1890's. They must struggle to survive religious patriarchy and abuse at a time when women have few rights and society looks upon domestic abuse as a private, family matter. River People is a story of hidden strength that rises to the surface in even the most unyielding of circumstances.
Margaret Lukas taught at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in the Writers Workshop for over a decade. She received her BFA in 2004 from the University of Nebraska. In 2007, she received her MFA from Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma, Washington. Her writing appears online and in a number of anthologies. Her award-winning short story, “The Yellow Bird,” was made into a 'short' and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. She is a recipient of a 2009 Nebraska Arts Council Individual Artist fellowship. Farthest House is her first novel. Her second novel, River People, is scheduled for release in February 2019.
This is a very low moment for Effie. More so because she doesn’t yet realize it. When she first arrived at the cabin, she’d been insulted to hear she was thought of as one of the “river people.” The months of hardship, both physical and mental have damaged her. She’s normalized the idea of being lesser than and has come to accept for herself what she'd first found repulsive. She longs for company in her suffering. Suggesting Pete’s mother was no better, represents her willingness to bring down another female to ease her own loneliness--even a woman she secretly admires. Taking it a step further, Effie would destroy Pete as well. Joan Chittister uses a term, “nurtured for greatness.” Certainly women were not nurtured for greatness in 1898. Are we today? And how do each of us nurture our own greatness despite the world's ideas?
Pete sat at the table cleaning a gun, Effie went on. “Pieces laid out and him shining everything with an oily rag. He didn’t say anything about Mr. Thayer’s boots, but there was something in his eyes. I could feel him laughing at me, thinking how I hadn’t helped with his mother. He isn’t river people like us. I wanted to tell him, ‘Just you wait. Your mama was, just you wait.’”