After the River the Sun

Companion Novel to 

Praise from
 Frances O'Roark Dowell:

"In AFTER THE RIVER THE SUN, Dia Calhoun has written a quietly powerful story of a boy who steps out of a fantasy world of knights and monsters into a real-life quest for family and home. Calhoun deals with loss, healing and friendship in language that is both direct and lyrical, making every page of this marvelous book a pleasure to read."

--Frances O’Roark Dowell, author of The Second Life of Abigail Walker and Chicken Boy


Click here to listen to Nancy Pearl's NPR review of AFTER THE RIVER THE SUN

"[this book] reads so fluidly, and it's just so lovely."
~Nancy Pearl

"I think this is an excellent book . . . a wonderful novel."
~Nancy Pearl


"A boy draws on Arthurian legend to ease his grief in this companion verse novel to Eva of the Farm (2012)."

  "Having recently witnessed his parents’ deaths from a drowning accident, Eckhart Lyon is sent to live with his uncle Albert, one of his few living relatives, on a trial basis. A gaming expert, the boy is certain he’ll never enjoy his strange uncle’s rural home without modern technology, but he grows to appreciate helping his uncle rebuild his orchard and hanging out with Eva, from a neighboring property. Despite these brief, comforting moments, he struggles with unrelenting guilt, feelings of cowardice and a desire to make his uncle’s house a real home. Calhoun’s precise verse (“Suddenly the stars beating down / were too bright, / the river too loud”) make Eckhart’s anguish palpable. The boy soon likens himself to Sir Gawain, who proved his worth to his uncle, King Arthur, before becoming a knight. Eckhart’s quest for home and courage is a true test, as his uncle grapples with his own grief and despair and will not commit to Eckhart’s future. A sudden tragedy allows the boy to heed the call of bravery, show his knightly spirit and forge a new family.

"A quiet testament to readers who relish the beauty of language over action. (Verse novel. 9-12)"

Review Issue Date: June 15, 2013
Online Publish Date: May 22, 2013

"Lovers of gaming and Arthurian legends will thoroughly enjoy this one."

Gr 5-7–This companion to Eva of the Farm (S & S, 2012) stands on its own. Eckhart Lyon, 13, is struggling with guilt and sorrow after his parents die during a family rafting trip. He has bounced around in foster care in Seattle until now when his estranged Uncle Albert has agreed to take him on a trial basis. His uncle, who is also dealing with feelings of guilt and loss, lives on a farm in the high desert of eastern Washington and refuses to tell Eckhart what the trial entails. Eckhart is a devoted gamer and fan of “The Green Knight” video game. He loves all things Arthurian. When he meets Eva, also 13, in the canyon near their farms, they bond over their shared enthusiasm for legends about brave knights and fair ladies. Together they embark on Eckhart’s greatest quest: to right a wrong and find a home. The story is written in free verse, which moves the plot along at a rapid pace. Although Eckhart and his uncle get off to a rocky start, there is never any real doubt that they will reconcile. The number of plot twists and turns keeps readers guessing what will happen next. “The Green Knight” game clearly parallels Eckhart’s life and keeps motifs of knights and quests at the forefront. Lovers of gaming and Arthurian legends will thoroughly enjoy this one.–Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC

— August 2013


When Eckhart Lyon arrives at Sunrise Orchard, all he wants to do is play video games and read about King Arthur's knights. Anything that helps him forget that his parents drowned in a river, forget his own cowardliness. Eckhart doesn't want to clear the dead orchard or explore the canyon or do anything else that stern Uncle Al asks. After all, Uncle Al is only taking him in on trial, and Eckhart can't imagine the orchard ever becoming his real home.

Then, up in the canyon, he meets Eva--a girl with a wild imagination and boundless hope who knows all about King Arthur's knights. With her help, Eckhart realizes that he is on a knightly quest of his own, a quest for home and courage. But what if that quest leads to a terrible choice--where the only way to save his new home is to give it up forever?

In this companion novel to Eva of the Farm, author Dia Calhoun shows that with friendship, determination, and the grace of nature we can overcome tragedy and rise toward the sun.

(from a presentation at SCBWI's Inside Story event)

Writing After the River the Sun started with a dream and ended with a fire that came too late. 

In the dream, I wandered through a barren desert. I had to plant something to turn the desert green, had to fight so I could rise from tragedy and shine again. That began the story of Eckhart Lyon. A boy who looses his home and his courage after his parents drown in a river. A Seattle boy exiled to live with his uncle on a dead orchard in Eastern Washington.

What a grand creative adventure writing this book was! I created a video game based on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Watched as the game and Eckhart’s story blended one into the other.  Watched as Eckhart and Eva, from my book Eva of the Farm, became friends. I even fell in love—with Bach’s famous violin piece—the Chaconne. After playing it, Eckhart’s mother sweeps her bow upward and says: “And that is the cry of a shining soul as it rises, fighting its way toward heaven.” 

Eckhart climbs Heaven’s Gate Mountain on a quest to regain his courage. High up, he spots a wildfire burning straight down toward the new orchard he has planted with his uncle, the orchard that has helped them both begin to rise from tragedy and shine again.

Forward to the morning of September 10, 2012. 

The book had just gone to press. I drove toward my father-in-law’s orchard--the inspiration for both After the River the Sun and Eva of the Farm. The night before, lightning strikes had started over one hundred wildfires in Eastern Washington. From ten miles away, I saw smoke rising from the low mountain above the farm. The road turned into a ribbon of dread.

Like Eckhart, we went into fire-fighting mode. Like Eckhart, I feared for a place I loved. Imagined the hills blackened, the trees scorched. Even as I helped rig sprinkler lines though, I wished I could rewrite those wildfire scenes in the book, experience telling me I didn’t get them quite right. 

Night fell. Each orange spot burning on the mountain burned my heart. I feared what the morning would bring. Then I remembered how Eckhart had faced his fire. As I stood in the dark staring up at the burning mountain, I knew that Eckhart was braver than I‘d ever imagined. Knew that this boy, fighting to rise from tragedy with his dreams of knightly valor, was my best work ever. My manifesto on shining. I got that right.


Good Wizard. There really is an old dead snag high on a hill 
above the canyon. This is a zoomed in photo. Like Eckhart and Eva, I have climbed up the hill to visit Good Wizard and was surprised to find him 20 feet tall.

A brush pile of old pear trees--like the ones Eckhart helps Uncle Al clear.

Dia CalhounComment