The Other Side of the River

Eric McGinnis’ body was fished out of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the St. Joseph River, a narrow stream separating two communities as different as, well, black and white. The prosperous resort town of St. Joseph, Mich., is 95 percent white; adjacent Benton Harbor, where McGinnis lived, is overwhelmingly poor and 92 percent black. The bridge connecting them, Kotlowitz writes in The Other Side of the River, ”joins two landscapes so dissimilar that, even after you’ve made dozens of trips, the view can take your breath away.” Kotlowitz, author of the prizewinning There Are No Children Here, is a brilliant reporter and observer who presents fully rounded, sympathetic portraits of individuals on both sides of the river. What he can’t do is solve the mystery of McGinnis’ death — and that, alas, turns the book into an elaborate shaggy-dog story with racial overtones that are all too familiar. B

The Other Side of the River
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