“Beauty, sacrifice, forgiveness, redemption, a son’s love for his father…

the themes in this novel moved me to tears.  ‘The River’ will inspire your soul!”

– Rebecca St. James, Grammy Award-winning artist

“Michael Neale has successfully parlayed his ability to inspire from the performing
platform to the written page.”

– John C. Maxwell, Founder of EQUIP, New York Times bestselling author

Contact: Katie Bond, Publicity Manager, kbond@thomasnelson.com

Nashville, TNWhen FL-based songwriter and worship leader Michael Neale sat down to begin drafting a story nearly eleven years ago, he had no idea where it would lead.

“I wasn’t sure who the story was for, I just knew I had to write it,” said Neale. “The River and its cast of characters were pressed so vividly and deeply into my heart, it just wouldn’t let me go.  It was as if the story had chosen me.  I had to do the hard work.  I had to let the story come to life.”

What Neale ultimately produced is “The River,” a powerfully universal story of loss and redemption.  The book follows Gabriel Clarke, the son of a legendary whitewater guide, who is mysteriously drawn to The River, a ribbon of frothy white water carving its way through steep canyons high in the Colorado Rockies. The fast waters beckon him to experience freedom and adventure—and leave his past behind. But something holds him back – the memory of a terrible event that happened on The River when he was just five years old.  Gabriel must learn that letting go of the past means giving himself totally to The River—heart, soul, and mind.  Readers of this compelling story finish inspired to overcome fear and live a life of boldness and purpose.

When demand for limited self-published copies of “The River” quickly overwhelmed Neale and his team, the author approached Thomas Nelson, Inc. about publishing the novel through traditional channels and opening up other possibilities for partnership and distribution.  “The River” novel will hit the market in September 2012 from Thomas Nelson Fiction. 

 “I’ve never experienced this kind of response to a story. Literally everyone who reads The River is transformed by it,” said Daisy Blackwell Hutton, Vice President and Publisher, Fiction. “We’ve worked with Michael at lightning speed to prepare the book for a broader launch this fall, and we believe that readers will experience the same kind of revelation that we Thomas Nelson have as they have engage with Michael and his story.”

Neale’s creative passion for the project didn’t end with the completion of a novel.  As a Dove Award-winning musician and performer, he has always loved to tell stories in a live environment.  Along with a team including award-winning composer Michael Whittaker, Neale produced an original score and recorded epic HD film footage that serves as the backdrop of the story.  The end result is a powerful multi-media storytelling experience that literally immerses the audience in a live visual journey through the story of The River, guided by Neale.

The River Experience live event debuted at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, in October 2011, where the author serves as an artist-in-residence.  He received a standing ovation and sold through the 1200 copies of the novel that had been printed for the event and serve as a pass-along for those touched by the performance’s message.  With the encouragement of the church’s teaching pastor, John C. Maxwell, Neale presented the live experience again before an audience of 100 corporate leaders near Atlanta, again to rave reviews.

Since internal conversations about the project began in April, a Thomas Nelson corporate reading initiative started to flourish, with employees reading and sharing how the story has affected them.

“I read it cover to cover and loved it,” said Mark Schoenwald, President and CEO.  “Adventure, romance, suspense, hope and triumph. People will see themselves and their own lives in this story.”

“Riveting? Powerful? Captivating? Inspiring? Challenging? Words you’re very familiar with when reading book endorsements. These are words you will hear from people who experience ‘The River.’ I am one of those people. ‘The River’ has stirred a longing deep in me for what I desperately want to believe about life, and sometimes do. Read it, and see if you don’t pass it on,” said Dean Arvidson, Key Accounts Manager.


Thomas Nelson, Inc., headquartered in Nashville, TN, is one of the leading trade publishers in the United States.  The Company is the world’s leading provider of Bibles, inspirational books and digital content, with product distribution in over 100 countries.   Live Event Management, Inc., a Thomas Nelson company, is a national leading producer of live events.  For more information, please visit www.thomasnelson.com.