‘Like a River’ by Granger Smith is available wherever books are sold.

Lake Highlands High School graduate Granger Smith has opened for Garth Brooks, played at the White House (three times) and watched his album debut at number six on the country charts. He’s played big stadiums and intimate venues all over the nation to adoring crowds, but earlier this year he announced he’s leaving country music to focus on his ministry. His Like a River concert tour, which concludes at the end of August, will be his last.

Sign up for our newsletter!

* indicates required

Smith sat down with podcaster Annie F. Downs to discuss his new book, also called Like a River, which was released August 1.

“If the first three pages give away the story, then that’s definitely not the climax of the story,” Smith said of his gripping and intimate tale of life and loss. “The rest of the book, the other 200 pages after that, are the aftermath and what happens after that. My hope is that, ultimately, that’s not what the book is about.”

The book tells, and Smith shares with Downs in the podcast, the breathtaking account of 3-year-old River, who drowned in the family’s backyard pool while mom Amber showered inside and Smith played in the yard with their three children. Smith was set to fly from Texas to Nashville the next day to perform at the CMT music awards show, but he was enjoying a beautiful evening with his family. It had been less than two minutes since he’d laid eyes on River, and the pool gate, he believed, was latched, as always. While helping his daughter practice a gymnastics move, Smith noticed the quiet and asked, “Where’s River?” He jumped the fence and found River face down in the pool.

“It still just feels like it didn’t happen,” Smith told Downs. “It feels surreal, because when you try to process that kind of information, your brain, because it’s so unthinkable, tries to give you a better suggestion of what might have happened or how it might have happened. When it can’t figure that out, it comes up empty and repeats.”

“It’s like a spinning wheel,” Smith said. “You simply cannot comprehend.”

Through the grief process, Smith adjusted his focus to healing his young family and drawing closer to God. He knows there are other families working through similar heartaches who can benefit from hearing what he’s learned.

“Guilt is a thief to steal your joy,” he said. “Grief and joy can co-exist at the same time. There’s nothing wrong with laughing, just as there’s nothing wrong with crying.”

Annie Down’s podcast is called That Sounds Fun, and Smith is featured on episode #477. Because Smith is so open about the details of that tragic day, Down suggests that parents listen first before allowing impressionable children to tune in.


Annie Downs’ podcast is called ‘That Sounds Fun’.