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The River by Starlight

Winner of 14 awards for historical and literary fiction

Based on true events, The River by Starlight weaves a century-old tale of love, heartbreak, healing, and redemption embodied in one woman’s tenacious quest for self-determination in the face of devastating misfortune and social injustice.

Her brother’s letter touched a match to the wick of Annie’s doused dreams. Dream enough for her, to stroll the length of a town without the abortive glances, the stilted greetings, the wider berth given her on the sidewalk. “I could use some help out here,” he wrote. “What’s holding you to Iowa anyway?”

Annie Rushton leaves behind an unsettling past to join her brother on his Montana homestead and make a determined fresh start. There, sparks fly when she tangles with Adam Fielding, a visionary businessman-farmer determined to make his own way and answer to no one. Neither is looking for a partner, but they give in to their undeniable chemistry.

Annie and Adam’s marriage brims with astounding success and sizzling passion, but their dream of having a child eludes them as a mysterious illness of mind and body plagues Annie’s pregnancies. Amidst deepening economic adversity, natural disaster, and the onset of world war, their personal struggles collide with the societal mores of the day. Annie’s shattering periods of black depression and violent outbursts exact a terrible price. The life the Fieldings have forged begins to unravel, and the only path ahead leads to unthinkable loss.

Accolades for The River by Starlight

Gold Medal, Independent Publishers Books Awards, Best Regional Fiction

Sarton Women’s Book Awards, Historical Fiction

Western Writers of America, Best First Novel

First in Category, Goethe Award for Historical Fiction, Chanticleer International Book Awards

Grand Prize Short List, Eric Hoffer Book Award

First runner-up
Eric Hoffer Book Award for Historical Fiction

Finalist, Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Regional Fiction

Finalist, Western Writers of America, Traditional Novel

Finalist, Nancy Pearl Award,
Genre Fiction,
Pacific Northwest Writers Association

Finalist, Eric Hoffer Book Awards, da Vinci Eye Award for superior cover artwork

Finalist, High Plains Book Award

Semifinalist, Somerset Award for Literary Fiction
Chanticleer International Book Awards

Finalist, Chatelaine Award for Romantic
and Women’s Fiction
Chanticleer International Book Awards

Finalist, National Indie Excellence Awards
Regional Fiction – West

Praise for The River by Starlight

 Captivating . . . the writing is exquisite . . . weaves heartache and redemption together to illuminate the power of love in life’s darkest moments.

Foreword Reviews

Really well done, don’t miss this personal account based on the true life stories of real people.

Powell's City of Books Staff Pick

 Weaves a mesmerizing story with beautiful prose.

Historical Novel Society

Thought-provoking and beautifully written debut novel . . . dives into the depths of family life and individual psychosis and uncovers a cast of complex and compelling characters that will keep you entranced to the last page.

C. P. Lesley, New Books Network

The writing is gorgeous. Readers will be swept back in time and won’t soon forget the vivid characters.

Nancy Bekofske, The Literate Quilter

A ten for voice and originality. Some of the best dialogue I’ve read, a voice that held me spellbound and a story that kept me turning the page. I surprised myself by shedding tears of joy and sorrow as I read, the story is like a symphony in the nuanced way it’s handled.

Elizabeth Lyon, author of Manuscript Makeover and six other writing books

Ellen Notbohm elevates the facts of a century-ago marriage to the story of Annie and Adam Fielding, trapped in tragic circumstances over which they have no control. The story is told with deep understanding, which draws in the reader, and with respect for the human heart, which won’t abandon hope.

Tony Cashman, author and historian, Alberta Order of Excellence

Passion, hope, and forgiveness . . . striking a human chord of mercy. Notbohm delivers an excellent historical piece that touches on a contemporary issue. Mental health is a relevant discussion, as society realizes it costs way too much to ignore.

Eric Hoffer Book Awards

Magical storytelling . . .With intimate and poetic language reminiscent of Paulette Jiles and Marisa de los Santos, Notbohm demonstrates that loss and fragility often exist alongside strength and bliss.


The River by Starlight is about as rich in theme and detail as the Montana sky is in stars. Historical frontier fiction, romance, women’s rights, mental health — all these pieces make for a quilt of impressive design.

Brian Juenemann, Eugene Register-Guard

Engages at the cellular level . . . a story that meets the criteria of what William Faulkner said when he accepted the Pulitzer Prize in 1954: “The only stories worth a writer’s blood and sweat and tears are stories of the human heart in conflict with itself.” Thoughtful, tragic, beautifully composed, it’s a book that once begun will not be put down.

Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning and best-selling author of All She Left Behind and numerous other fictional works based primarily on the lives of real people or events

A rare gem. This is the best kind of novel, one that burrows deep into both mind and heart, and lingers long afterward. The book just kept getting better and better, pulling me into its spell. The story continues to haunt me … I can’t recommend it enough!

Barbara Linn Probst, award-winning author of Queen of the Owls

A beautifully written story with complex, gripping characters.

Carolyn Burns Bass, LitChat

Compelling, lyrical, and powerful novel . . .will stay with me for years to come. As a mother diagnosed with a rare postpartum mood disorder, my heart went out to Annie, the multilayered, fascinating protagonist of this epic tale.

Dyane Harwood, author of Birth of a New Brain: Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder

Graceful and unflinching . . . a complex journey through grief, fulfillment, betrayal, and forgiveness.

Kirkus Reviews

There is nothing I didn’t love about this book. The language is exquisite, a mixture of steel and silk—the narrative voice uncannily powerful and sure, yet tender. The story will grow tendrils around your heart, squeezing it until you can barely breathe. It’s the story of one woman’s tragic and puzzling mental frailty, but more, it is a love story, and a heart-rending study of the forced redefining of family. Trenchant dialogue and lyrical prose reveal the very soul of the unforgettable characters in this book. Recommended to any reader with a heart.

Laurel Davis Huber, winner of the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction for The Velveteen Daughter

Heart-wrenching yet hopeful . . . a compelling and beautifully written debut novel.

Ashley E. Sweeney, award-winning author of Eliza Waite and Answer Creek

Filled with vivid characters and descriptions, heartache, loss and the healing power of love, The River by Starlight is a tribute to so many women who were treated unjustly and who managed to find their way and survive. Bravo, Ellen Notbohm!

Kris Radish, bestselling author of A Dangerous Woman from Nowhere

…masterfully weaves the story of Annie and Adam Fielding, two star-crossed people who come together in an attempt to bring forth life on an early 20th-century farm in Montana. Rich with beautiful prose stitched together with authentic, shimmering dialogue and a love story that leaves you aching, Ellen Notbohm’s debut novel is sure to stun.

Michelle Cox, award-winning author of the Henrietta and Inspector Howard series

A rich and complicated tale full of heartache, love, and yes, redemption … Just know that if you pick this book up you will not be able to put it back down until you finish. And it will occupy your thoughts for days after you finish.

Broken Teepee Book Reviews, 100 Best Books in Fiction, 2013-2019