Peter Heller’s The River (2019)

The River

Jack and Wynn have been best friends since their college freshmen orientation. In many ways, they couldn’t be more different–the former an engineering major, more pragmatic, raised on a Colorado ranch; the latter an art major, more optimistic, raised in a comfortable, well-to-do Vermont home. Still, they’re bonded by a love of the outdoors, of canoeing, of fishing, and of reading.

It’s no surprise that they decide to spend August on a canoe trip in northern Canada–their goal a small village on Hudson Bay after an approximately 150 mile-long trip. Things take an unexpected turn when they realize a large wildfire rages near the river. Then, they hear a couple arguing one day in the fog. The next day, a lone man paddles up the river. . . .

Disclaimer: I am not an outdoorsy person. I’m a couch potato, a bookworm, an indoorsy-sort, through and through. Still, I love a good wilderness adventure story! I don’t need to go camping because I just tag along with the characters in a book when they go. 🙂

The author of this novel, Peter Heller, is apparently an experienced canoeist, and his knowledge of the subject shines through without ever feeling out-of-place or forced. He vividly makes the reader feel like they’re along for the trip. The pacing starts out leisurely (though the material is never uninteresting), but things take off pretty quickly as Jack and Wynn begin to realize that something bad is afoot.

One thing that I especially enjoyed is even though at its heart this is an adventure novel, Heller’s writing style was quite lyrical. His descriptions of the river, the forest, and even the wildfire are stunningly evocative and, at times, simply beautiful.

If you like a good wilderness survival story told in exquisite prose, definitely give this book a try. It will make you want to get out on the river while also making you relieved that you’re not out there at all.

Recommended for those who enjoyed James Dickey’s Deliverance (which is name-checked a few times), Erica Ferencik’s The River at Night, and Kevin Fedarko’s The Emerald Mile.

Are you an outdoorsy type or an indoorsy type? What’s your favorite wilderness survival novel? Do you have any harrowing canoeing stories? Tell us in the comments! As always, please follow this link to our online library catalog to find more information on this item or to place a hold.

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Author: berryvillelibrary

"Our library, our future"

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