Dorothy Weil

The River Home

The River Home begins: “The need to tell our stories began for me at my father’s funeral in 1980. James Harvey Coomer died at eighty-six. His coffin lay in a funeral home in Burnside, Kentucky, the little hill town where he was born. He was laid out in his navy-blue mate’s uniform from the steamboat Delta Queen. His beard, which had grown long and shaggy, was clipped and neat. He looked peaceful for the first time. In life, we never saw him at rest, this man from the hills who found the river early, kept leaving it, but always returned. Intelligent, unread, angry, half hillbilly, half man of the world, he would, said Captain Lucas, ‘fight a buzz saw.’ Standing near the coffin, an old man on crutches, whom I didn’t know, raised one crutch and said, ‘I’ll be seein’ you soon, Harv!’

After the burial of my father, I embarked on a series of journeys during which I became dedicated to finding our family’s past. Traveling by towboat, steamboat, an even an old-time flatboat, I started with stories about other people who lived and worked on rivers. Until I finally came to our own.”


“Weil’s account of being a ‘river rat’ is so unusual that it piques our curiosity and adds a different voice and perspective to the memoir genre.”
--Ceil Cleveland, author of Whatever
Happened to Jacey Farrow

“The river journeys provide an arresting motif for an unusually rich and extremely moving memoir.”
--Lee Smith, author of Oral History and
The Last Girls

"With a clear, keen eye and a tough, caring heart, Weil deftly describes life on the edge and the struggle simply to grow up--a struggle so hard we botch it as often as not. Without a trace of sentimentality, she evokes the power, the danger, and the beauty of rivers--and of childhood."
--Celia Morris, author of Finding Celia’s Place and Storming the Statehouse

Selected Works

Story of a woman and her family working together to save a brilliant man who is near madness and death.
A serious literary novel about an eighty-five year old couple who are threatened by the husband's serious illness and a pair of hoodlums from their deteriorating neighborhood. "A Good Woman" is not just a good novel, it's one that delivers a punch readers are not likely to have felt before--Ceil Cleveland, founding editor of "Columbia Magazine."
Family Memoir
A return to the author’s river home to recapture her family’s history.
Mystery Thriller
"A crackling good yarn" --James E. Casto, author of Towboats on the Ohio
Humorous yet poignant story of a fifteen-year- old girl trying her best to grow up.
Laura Hoffman returns to college to finish a degree in the Art Department. She copes with eccentric professors, a recalcitrant husband, growing children and a super-neat mother. Her adventures include a pass by The Faculty Feeler and a flirtation with a younger man.