- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Knopf (March 5, 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0525521879
- ISBN-13: 978-0525521877
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 126 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The River: A novel Hardcover – March 5, 2019
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An Amazon Best Book of March 2019: Peter Heller has written three previous novels, but he has been writing about the outdoors in magazines like Outside and Men’s Journal for much longer. In The River Heller has drawn from all that experience to create an exciting, thoughtful, and well-paced thriller about two friends paddling into trouble in northern Canada. A distant wildfire is the first portent of danger. When the friends hear a man and woman arguing on the foggy riverbank, they decide to warn them about the fire—but their search for the pair turns up nothing. The next day a man appears solo on the river. Was he one of the people they heard the day before? The River starts out as a leisurely backwoods paddle and inexorably picks up speed before spilling readers down its cascade of an ending. This is a thriller, an adventure novel, and a meditation on friendship, the outdoors, and something altogether deeper. As I read, I felt like I had been waiting for this book without knowing it, and I fully expect The River to persist as one of my favorite reads of 2019. --Chris Schluep, Amazon Book Review
"Utter joy... A suspenseful tale told with glorious drama and lyrical flair."
–Denise Mina, The New York Times Book Review
"Urgent, visceral writing--I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. A beautiful, heartrending exploration of male friendship."
–Clare Mackintosh, bestselling author of Let Me Lie
"A fiery tour de force… [The River] recalls his debut, The Dog Stars, with its poetic, staccato sentences and masterfully crafted prose… And what a story he tells… I could not put this book down. It truly was terrifying and unutterably beautiful."
–Alison Borden, The Denver Post
"[A] poetic and unnerving wilderness thriller… Full of rushing life and profound consequences. Every move Jack and Wynn make along the river has the chance to kill them or those they’re trying to save, and the result is a novel that sweeps you away, each page filled with wonder and awe for a natural world we can quantify with science but can rarely predict with emotion."
–Tod Goldberg, USA Today
"Heller puts his knowledge of canoeing and currents to fascinating use. He has created indelible characters in Wynn and Jack, pals who are almost exact opposites: the former a bearish galoot who’s convinced that people are basically good, and the latter a pessimist who’s convinced that their only hope for salvation is to paddle as fast as they can."
–Ross Gray, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Another superbly crafted adventure-action-mystery story… Reminiscent of James Dickey’s classic Deliverance… The beat of Heller’s novel builds to a furious pace."
–John Newlin, New York Journal of Books
"Engaging...satisfying... Terse and tight. Short, lyrical paragraphs are packed with action and keep the story moving along... Like a lot of backcountry missions, the most compelling parts of the story aren’t necessarily the rapids or the high-risk moves. Instead they’re the quiet moments where Wynn and Jack are coupling their rods together and wading slowly through vivid, tannic streams."
–Heather Hansman, Outside Magazine
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I’m a guy. I like guy stuff. Heller writes about guys doing stuff—surviving after a worldwide calamity; communing with nature and killing a bad guy (unintentionally; he had it coming!); navigating a dangerous river and saving a woman in distress—so I’m in.
“The River” is streamlined, coming in at around 250 pages. I read it in a couple of sessions, squeezing it into my schedule as often as possible. There’s no discernable fluff. It feels intimate and reminded me of Tim O’Brien’s work in its limited scope. The way Heller tells the story—it’s not a straightforward A to B journey; there are turns and backtracking and changes of pace—reflects the river itself. It starts at a meandering pace and quickly picks up speed.
Heller writes with an authority born of experience. Everything feels completely authentic. So much texture. I think I said much the same in my review for “The Painter,” but his writing and his eye for detail really remind me of James Dickey’s “Deliverance.” Dickey was a poet who brought his keen eye for nature to novel writing and created a fictional touchstone that most stories of canoeing down a river will naturally be compared to, which is why I was surprised and pleased that Heller mentions “Deliverance” and name-checks Dickey.
(Skip this if you're concerned about possible spoilers. Something occurred to me a few days after I finished the book and had some time to digest it. I was ultimately satisfied with the book's resolution, but I think it might have been more interesting for the "less manly" character to have had to step up to resolve the central conflict. As-is, it's fairly straightforward and unsurprising, and not much of an arc. There's circularity and *some* closure for the protagonist in terms of what's haunting him, but the resolution of the conflict doesn't specifically "kill his ghost." C'est la vie.)
"The River" is another winner from Heller. He is an amazingly talented writer and I would be pleased to read anything he put out.
The description of the most obvious threat, a huge forest fire, was breathtaking. I could smell the fire, hear its voice and see its power.
The other threats are equally well described and I read with fascination and dread as the story advanced.
The River explores the themes of friendship, responsibility, loss, love and endurance. I recommend it highly.
My only complaint is that the author uses too many incomplete sentence fragments. I’ll read a sentence and be jerked out of the story as I try to make sense of what appears to be a sentence but without a verb. Or a noun. (This is my example of his writing.). He uses it instead of employing a semicolon or a hyphen. I found it annoying and bothersome.
but I always made it back home, lol.
This book is wonderful. It explores so much: friendship, loss, learning, growth, handling tough situations, integrity, and strength.
It's the story of two very close friends who set off together to take on their dream canoe trip in a wild, beautiful land but who stumble into a situation that will change them forever. Awesome writing that pulls you into every choice they make. I'll definitely be reading more from this author and, as an author myself, feel I learned a thing or two!!
The only disappointment was how it ended. It just left me with too many loose ends.