Sunday, December 6, 2020

The River

The River by Peter Heller
3/5/19; 272 pages
Penguin Random House

The River by Peter Heller is a very highly recommended novel of friendship, a canoe trip, and survival.

Jack and Wynn have been best friends since they met at Dartmouth freshman orientation. The two have very different personalities and backgrounds, but they both love the outdoors, books, fly fishing, and canoeing. They have been looking forward to the late summer trip they have planned to canoe the Maskwa River in northern Canada. The two envisioned leisure days of paddling, fishing, and eating ripe wild berries. in the midst of their trip they discover a wildfire raging in the distance, but close enough that they need to be worried. They warn two men they encountered about the fire and later, when they heard a man and woman arguing through the fog, they decided to warn them too, but couldn't find them. The next day a man turns up, alone, saying his wife disappeared. Jack and Wynn decide to go back and look for the woman before the fire hits and this decision results in the two literally fighting for survival in the wilderness on the river, from the fire, for sustenance, and from homicidal vengeance.

The River is a perfect tale of survival that will grip your attention as completely as any thriller. Once I started reading I could not set it down. This is an amazing survival tale combined with an in-depth character study. Jack and Wynn are dissimilar young men with almost opposite personalities who approach life very differently. As the novel unfolds, we learn more about their backgrounds and their personality traits. This divergence becomes more pronounced as the narrative continues and the two are facing one ordeal after another. They both have strengths and weaknesses in their individual approaches to life.

The writing is absolutely exceptional in this accomplished tale of friendship, adventure, and adversity. Heller captures both of his characters, their experiences, the action, and the descriptions perfectly. His ability to portray the inner workings of his characters and then provide detailed descriptions of the wilderness, the river, the fire, is amazing. The pacing is impeccable. I simply can't say enough good things about The River. (It broke my heart a little when I didn't get a review copy of it and I'm disappointed in myself for not putting it on my reading schedule asap anyway.)

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