The River Series

Chiastic Structure of The River Series

So, now for another totally nerdy post (but also totally cool when I think about how God authored this story and then entrusted it to me to tell. He’s awesome!)


Chiastic structure has to do with a piece of writing that basically begins with an idea (A), then progresses to a new idea or ideas (B, C, etc) and then, at some point, the pattern reverses (C’, B’) and it ends up back at A’, but the pattern reversal is such that it is the reciprocal or antithesis of the original idea (A, B, C). Typically, the original ideas (A, B, C) have a negative connotation and the reversal ideas (C’, B’, A’) have a positive.


For instance: dark, off, down, reverse, up, on, light.

Further, chiastic structure is symmetrical and, since it comes full circle and ends upbeat, it often gives plenty of closure to the reader. Some famous examples of chiastic structure include the story of the flood in Genesis, the book of Daniel (which is an example of double chiasm), and the Harry Potter series.
The more I thought about The River Series, the more chiastic structure I saw in it. In short, it goes: A) purity, B) defilement, B’) defilement), A’) purity restored. For truly nerdy literary people, the below, more in-depth explanation will be even more satisfying.

Spoilers follow!!!


There are many more chiastic elements in The River Series, as well as other forms of literary structure, such as:

  • Both Bordertown Gypsy and Mobtown Player end on a cliffhanger. There is a shooting at the end of each book. The character to last touch the bullet becomes the character who is redeemed next (and in the novel which follows). In contrast, both Lynchtown Wolf and Rivertown Crooner have a more-or-less resolved ending with the anticipation of future events.

  • Mr. Ulric’s real name is Joshua Allen Kirby (initials JAK). Vincent Gebardi’s alias is Jack. These two “Jacks” are never redeemed. (There is one additional Jack in the books- Robert’s friend- and his name being Jack was purely coincidental.)

  • In exchange for witness protection and exemption from federal prosecution, Daniella snitches on Mr. Ulric. The federal government is unable to convict him for the crime. In exchange for witness protection and exemption from federal prosecution, Robert snitches on Jack. The federal government is unable to convict him for the crime.

  • Both Mr. Ulric and Jack McGurn are charged with violating the Mann Act of 1910. Mr. Ulric is guilty, but he never is never convicted. Jack is convicted, but, later, he is exonerated.

  • The second scene in the series begins with Catrin Cordero laying her baby in the bassinette beside her bed, and then she crawls into bed and makes love to her husband. The second to the last scene in the series involves Nathan and Daniella making love, and then, the final scene begins with Daniella getting out of bed and picking up her baby from the bassinette beside her bed. Both couples ultimately parented numerous children.

  • Franco’s and Raymond’s deaths were turning points for the care their sisters received, but in opposite ways- with Franco’s death, Daniella no longer had a caregiver, but, with Raymond’s death, his sisters suddenly had a permanent caregiver (their Aunt Georgie).

  • The precise date of Robert’s birth into the world isn’t known, but Henry calculated its approximate date and settled upon July 19th. Three times more that date is a turning point for the character. In Lynchtown Wolf, it is the date Robert runs away from Fort Smith. In Mobtown Player, it is the date Robert flees from Chicago. In Rivertown Crooner, it is the date Daniella gives Nathan (Robert) the gift that was originally from Mami to Papi.

  • The series begins almost immediately with Daniella’s Papi taking his children to the river to fish. The series ends with Daniella’s new father, Henry, taking her children to the river to fish.

  • In Bordertown Gypsy, Robert and Daniella come together at the beginning of the summer. In Lynchtown Wolf, Robert leaves his family in the middle of the summer. In Mobtown Player, Robert leaves Daniella in the middle of the summer. In Rivertown Crooner, Nathan (Robert) and Daniella consummate their marriage at the end of the summer.  

  • Two non-fictional massacres were catalysts in the fictional series- the Tulsa Riots and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Each precipitated events which ultimately led to one of the fictional protagonist’s redemptions.

  • The house on the corner of 4th and Hhas a redemption story of its own (read this previous post for more info on that). In Bordertown Gypsy, it begins pure, as a family house, but then it is defiled. In Lynchtown Wolf, the purification process begins, but it is not fully vindicated from its reputation as a house of ill fame until near the end of Rivertown Crooner when Daniella and Nathan are married. Then, at the end of the series, the house is redeemed and it, once again, is a pure family house.

  • In Bordertown Gypsy, Daniella begins working at night in the brothel and her work there is immoral. In Rivertown Crooner, Nathan begins working at night in the radio station and his work there is honorable.

  • In the beginning, Daniella’s love is for her father (who is good). Then, her love shifts to focus on Mr. Ulric (who is no good). Then, her love is given to her new father, Henry Callum (good). Then, she gives her love to Jack (no good). Then, her love is given to her husband, Nathan, who becomes the father of her children and who is good. 

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