Freda Reads at Peez

Delaware Valley author Joseph Freda will appear at Livingston Manor’s coffeehouse and café Peez Leweez at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 7. Mr. Freda will read from his new book “The Patience of Rivers” and will sign books after the reading. Copies will be available at the reading.

In his latest novel, Freda takes readers to the famed summer of 1969; it is set at a family campground near Bethel. The story is a classic coming-of-age tale following the events of Nick Lauria’s last summer before college.

“Joseph Freda is a remarkably gifted storyteller and his new book, The Patience of Rivers, reads like vivid testimony – to a particular time, to a special place in the author’s heart. It sent me back to that special place in my town,” said Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls, winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize.

Author Alice McDermott, National Book Award winner for Charming Billy, says, “Joseph Freda understands the complex ties of work, blood, ambition and love that bind his characters to one another, to the land and to the time in which they live.”

The Patience of Rivers was released in February by Norton. It is Mr. Freda’s second novel. His first novel, Suburban Guerillas, won an individual Artist Fellowship from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program. Freda’s short fiction and personal essays have appeared in the Kenyon Review, StoryQuarterly, Coffee Journal and The Literary Gazette. Information on the author is at

The Peez Leweez coffeehouse is located at the corner of Pearl and Main in downtown Livingston Manor. Lunch, pastries, desserts as well as coffees and specialty drinks will be available.

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A Writer Runs Through It
by David Harris for the Towne Crier

“The Patience of Rivers” by Joseph Freda reads like a fabulous daydream. One can imagine cruising in a convertible down the scenic road tracing the path of the wild Upper Delaware River, as wind whips hair, classic rock blares from the radio, and summer sun warms smiling faces.

It helps if you have been canoeing on the Delaware to paint the mental images to accompany the story, but there are plenty of points of reference to which the reader can connect, should physicality be lacking. Freda writes at a confluence of space and time that seems to parallel the emptying of so many tributaries into the centrality of the river and the enormous force it creates. The account of one summer on the Delaware River, in 1969, flows with scenes of life in small-town rural America, the Woodstock festival, the Vietnam War, the moon-landing, the hippie scene, and all the music that pumped through the speakers of a generation.

The main current that carries us along this both nostalgic and historic documentary is the trials and tribulations of 18-year-old Nick Lauria. Skillfully portrayed with all the inquisitiveness and uncertainty of adolescence, we watch as Nick grapples with his desire to flee the confines of the rural community, his angst about the war and the draft card in his wallet, the youthful anxiousness of love and relationships, and primarily, the deception and intrigue surrounding the family business – running a campsite and renting canoes.

Family holds an important theme in the book and serves as a background for almost all of the characters in the novel: The Lauria Family; Grandma and Grandpa; Ted Miles (an old friend of Nick’s parents and partner in the campsite business) and his son, Charlie (Nick’s best friend); the Van Vooren Sisters; the Earl Brothers. There is a connection to family, and the families to one another, that is inseparable from the description of Delaware Ford and the surrounding settlements along the valley. Freda conveys a sense of community that many Americans are unfamiliar with and that many others are finding it more and more difficult to maintain in today’s world.

“The Patience of Rivers” offers a close look at the inner-workings of a family and the importance of loyalty, contrasted with the consequences of betrayal and the ripping apart of relationships. As greed for both money and power threatens the stability and unity of the Lauria family, the characters search for peace and contentment in their lives, while the world around them seems to be in upheaval and filled with unrest.

And, yet, everything touches home – the neighbor boy off in Vietnam, Woodstock and the musicians, hippies, and political implications taking place just minutes away from the campsite and in the campsite itself. We are swept back in time and the narrative allows us to drift into our pasts and see what it all meant to a young man who was trying to paddle his canoe through the turbulent waters of the times and around the boulders that could dash his dreams for the future.

Freda gives us real sounds to hear, music to dance to, aromas to inhale (there was a lot of inhaling going on, apparently …), and emotions with which we can identify. There is a natural quality and honesty in the personalities that populate the novel. The characters are unpredictable in a very human way. They carry out the disgraces and heroics as we know that real people do: never with simplistically immaculate perfection. Even when the characters become predictably unpredictable, they remain familiar in that we can recognize ourselves in their aspirations, dreams, and regrets.

Storms that rip down the Delaware Valley and cause the river to flood, threatening to swallow the campsite, provide both action and metaphor in the novel. The river teaches us things. Pent-up emotions can suddenly burst the banks of the soul and flood uncontrollably; life must keep moving and it is forever changing, just like the water that keeps flowing in a constant direction that nature has chosen; and that, over time, the power of the river can smooth even the roughest stones that lie beneath the water’s surface.

The author matches the freedom of the river with the freedom Nick Lauria searches for and that was such a part of the sixties generation. Woven together are the longing for freedom from isolation, the freedom to escape exposure to the horrors of war and violence, and the freedom to seek out individual paths and futures. Like the river as it moves further downstream, the time that has passed since Freda was a young man growing up in the Upper Delaware Valley has added conviction, direction, and force to the story he tells.

David Harris is a writer for The Towne Crier and a student at Columbia University. He lives in Ferndale and is at work on his first novel which concerns an exploration of idealism.

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