The River: A novel (Hardcover)
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March 2019 Indie Next List
“Peter Heller can take you on a journey through nature like no other writer. The River is the story of two close friends wanting nothing more than to enjoy their time together on a trip through the Canadian wilderness, and fly fishing has never been so beautifully portrayed nor has the serenity of water and nature. But the peacefulness slowly wanes and the tension begins to build as the trip becomes a race against encroaching forest fires and an attempt to save the life of the mysterious woman they have picked up along the way. Heller has created a story of friendship and survival that should not be missed.”
— Mary McBride, Rainy Day Books, Fairway, KS
"A fiery tour de force … I could not put this book down. It truly was terrifying and unutterably beautiful."—The Denver Post
Wynn and Jack have been best friends since college orientation, bonded by their shared love of mountains, books, and fishing. Wynn is a gentle giant, a Vermont kid never happier than when his feet are in the water. Jack is more rugged, raised on a ranch in Colorado where sleeping under the stars and cooking on a fire came as naturally to him as breathing. When they decide to canoe the Maskwa River in northern Canada, they anticipate long days of leisurely paddling and picking blueberries, and nights of stargazing and reading paperback Westerns. But a wildfire making its way across the forest adds unexpected urgency to the journey.
One night, with the fire advancing, they hear a man and woman arguing on the fog-shrouded riverbank; the next day, a man appears on the river, paddling alone. Is this the same man they heard? And if he is, where is the woman? From this charged beginning, master storyteller Peter Heller unspools a headlong, heart-pounding story of desperate wilderness survival.
"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
"[T]here is plenty of tension here, but where Heller really scores is the extraordinarily high quality of his writing about the natural world, which is lyrical and action-packed by turns."
–Laura Wilson, The Guardian
"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
“It is a rare literary feat when an author is able to marry plot and prose with the soaring majesty that Heller achieves in The River.”
–Drew Gallagher, Fredericksburg Free Lance Star