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many rivers to cross by thomas zigalMany Rivers to Cross

by Thomas Zigal


400 pages, 6 x 9 • Cloth $37.95 / Paper $26.50
ISBN 978-0-87565-585-7 / 978-0-87565-569-7

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As the waters rise and New Orleans descends into chaos, Zigal’s novel unfolds through the eyes of the Grant family, all separated and fighting for their safety.


With water rapidly rising to alarming heights and contaminated by filth, the only way in or out of New Orleans is by boat. Hodge Grant, a veteran of Vietnam, must ply the fetid waters in a homemade craft in order to reach his stranded daughter and two grandchildren. Accompanied by his grandchildren’s good-for-nothing father Duval, Hodge enters into the treacherous wreckage left by the storm. The city appears to be deserted except for a few police out to commandeer civilian boats—by force, if necessary.


Dee was hardly daunted by the idea of a hurricane. Still, for the sake of her two children, Dee attempted to evacuate, only to turn back as gangs of armed hijackers pulled hapless drivers from their cars in gridlocked traffic. Now she and her children are stranded in their attic as the water laps at the hatch. They can only hope for Hodge’s swift arrival.


Hodge’s son PJ and eight thousand other inmates remain incarcerated in the Orleans Parish Jail as the waters begin to rise. Abandoned by the guards, the inmates must break through the bars of their cells or drown. They discover armed guards calmly waiting in boats outside; they pull some men from the water, but PJ knows that this is his only chance to escape. Climbing up the chain fence, PJ is followed by other inmates with the same idea. The men scramble for their freedom and rush into the drowning city.

  • "Many Rivers to Cross drew me in and never let me go. The narrative brought back, vividly and painfully, the most unforgettable story I've ever covered. Zigal uncannily captured the surreality and madness of that week after the storm when the rule of law disintegrated in one of America’s great cities and an epic calamity revealed the very finest and foulest of the human spirit. I was in many of those places where his characters passed through, and I can tell you that Zigal did his homework."

    John Burnett, NPR Correspondent

  • “Thomas Zigal is the real deal in every sense – a real storyteller who writes with enormous craft and boundless compassion. Many Rivers to Cross, about the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina, is suspenseful and deeply compelling – Zigal at his best, which is very, very good indeed.”

    Scott Turow

  • “What a really good novel this is; crisp and dramatic, restrained and finely-tuned, immensely readable – and smart; in the way superb novels ought to be:  personally useful in understanding the otherwise inexpressible.”

    Richard Ford

  •  “This novel is awe-inspiring. With the agony and passion of a native son, Thomas Zigal has entered New Orleans’ heart of darkness after Katrina, after the flood.  Zigal has been a superb writer of fiction for a long time, and his story of people flung awash and fighting for their lives in a place completely transformed is brave, frightening, and so dramatic that at times you have to get up and walk around the room.  Joseph Conrad would have been proud to have his name on this.”

    Jan Reid

  • “Thomas Zigal has always been an expert storyteller, and in this compelling new novel his skill and empathy shine brighter than ever. Many Rivers to Cross is a stirring example of the magic that can happen when a story of urgent contemporary relevance is told with timeless narrative mastery.”

    Stephen Harrigan

  • Many Rivers to Cross, a compelling and audacious search and rescue thriller set in the brutal aftermath of Katrina, depicts its hurricane survivors at their ugliest and at their most tender. Thomas Zigal writes without sentimentality but with pace and passion and immense humanity. This is a storm of a novel.”

    Jim Crace

  • “Thomas Zigal is a born storyteller with a big heart whose characters are real in their suffering and redemption. This is not the Katrina you think you know – a powerhouse read.”

    April Smith

  • “A heartpounding apocalyptic heroes’ journey that, as the best fiction does, brings truth to life with shattering force.”

    Baine Kerr

  • “This is the novel about Hurricane Katrina we’ve all been waiting for.  Zigal has written several excellent novels, but this is his crowning achievement. He is a bold and big-hearted writer, and in this book he grabs the reader on page one and never lets go. This is a major accomplishment.”

    James Magnuson

  • “For all of Zigal’s previous fine, first-rate books, his new novel, Many Rivers to Cross, is his great book, his masterwork, as it were, for the ages.  It is both uniquely Southern in nature and universal in scope.
    “Zigal takes us into the destructive heart of a perfect storm, a convergence of the fierce wrath of nature, the multiple failures of a corrupt and indifferent bureaucracy, and the ensuing lawlessness that feeds upon the corpse of a once great city. 


    “Under his masterful and cinematic prose, Katrina is transformed from a news story into compelling and personal survival narratives that flood toward startling fates.  His unlikely main heroes are the members of an already fractured family who know well the disaster of living lives of bad choices. Now all of them struggle to emerge as survivors and the saviors of those they love most.  It is their intersecting narratives that compel the trajectory and structure of Zigal’s taut, horrific account of salvation and redemption. This novel is painful and scary to read, but like the old cliché, it is a page-turner that can’t be put down for a single moment.


    “While there is chaos and courage on every page, and danger and disaster, this novel is so much more than a survival story. Quite simply, Many Rivers to Cross is one of the best, most important books I have read in my lifetime.”

    Chuck Kinder

Thomas Zigal is the author of the critically acclaimed Kurt Muller mystery series, which includes Into Thin Air, Hardrock Stiff, and Pariah.  His latest novel is The White League, which is the first volume of his New Orleans trilogy; Many Rivers to Cross is the second. A former vice president of the Texas Institute of Letters, he holds an MA degree from the Stanford Writing Program and is a member of the Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America, and the Writers League of Texas. Zigal has lived in many places including San Francisco; Aspen; Lafayette, Louisiana; New Orleans; and Switzerland, each of which has significantly influenced his works. Zigal currently lives in Austin, Texas.