Book review: The River — by Peter Heller

(Knopf Publishing Group)
Two young men at the center of this novel, Jack and Wynn, best friends at Dartmouth, had decided to take off the fall semester, and using money they earned as NOLS instructors earlier in the summer, set off on a wilderness canoeing trip to Hudson Bay. In what would turn out to be a ruinous decision, they determined having a sat-phone would ruin the spirit of true adventure. They planned to fish and forage, have plenty of time for rest days and fires by the water’s edge. But a forest fire, far larger than either had ever encountered before, swiftly ends that leisurely quality of the trip. It takes only a few pages for Heller to insert tension, and his writing style — terse and punctuated — effectively maintains this tautness unrelentingly throughout this harrowing tale. When a woman disappears from her campsite and her husband is likely the culprit, the boys circle back to rescue her. That decision jeopardizes their safety and their timing, and the likelihood of their being overrun by a mega-fire increases. Heller is a master in this novel; his dialogue is realistic, and the sense of place is all encompassing. This book will keep you up at night.
— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.
10 pure adventure stories
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
To the Bright Edge of the World, by Eowyn Ivey
The Terror, by Dan Simmons
City of Thieves, by David Benioff
Wintering, by Peter Geye
The Salt Path: A Memoir, by Raynor Winn
Into the Forest, by Jean Hegland
The Hunger, by Alma Katsu
The Stranger in the Woods, by Michael Finkel
The Revenant, by Michael Punke

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