June 7, 2019
In anticipation of U.S. Father’s Day, here is a book that a Dad in your life might enjoy!
*This post contains affiliate Amazon links.
For wilderness enthusiasts…….
Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Wilderness Survival, Suspense/Thriller, Friendship
The River is a story of wilderness survival and friendship with a generous side of suspense/thriller. Wynn and Jack are college friends who enjoy the mountains, reading, and fishing, but they get more than they bargained for in this wilderness canoe trip. Instead of days filled with fishing and reading and nights of stargazing, they attempt a rescue as they face starvation, a forest fire, and a dangerous stranger.
The River is a unique blend of beautiful descriptive writing, character study, and suspense. It’s a wonderful example of a character-driven and plot-driven story. Often stories are heavily weighted toward one or the other, and I really appreciate the balance here.
Writing: Two types of readers will really appreciate The River: those who love all things wilderness, canoeing, and fishing and those who love character studies. The beginning of the story is slow paced and wilderness enthusiasts will enjoy the descriptive details and gear talk, but once Wynn and Jack smell smoke, the story increases its pace and has enough suspense to move the plot along. However, the suspense didn’t terrify me as an HSP (highly sensitive person). Suspense/thriller enthusiasts might find the read a little tame compared to other titles in the genre. For wimpish me, it was just right! The writing does include a great deal of fishing/canoeing jargon which I couldn’t relate to, so I skimmed those parts, but it will delight readers who have experience in the sport and can understand the specific terms and concepts.
Characters: In addition to vivid setting descriptions, the part I enjoyed most about the reading experience was the character study. While both men are confident and competent, Wynn is a gentle personality, an artist, and a big-hearted idealist who always wants to believe the best of people and situations. Jack is more of a cowboy type who is rugged, realistic, always prepared, and will take charge in an emergency. An enjoyable part of the story is watching how these two friends who are different and alike in many ways are able to work together and respect each other’s strengths. I care for these likable characters and felt every disappointment and fear as things go horribly wrong despite their efforts to do everything right.
Wynn thought that if wolves sang, and coyotes, and elk and birds, and wind, and we, too, it was probably in response to a music we didn’t know we could hear.
For Jack, stuff like cold and hunger didn’t have a value, good or bad, they just were, and it was best if they didn’t last that long; but if they did, as long as one survived them, no harm, no foul.
Themes: I’ve already touched on some of the important themes: survival, friendship, helping others despite the danger or risk, grief, nature, and wilderness adventure.
Recommended: The River is highly recommended for readers who are wilderness and adventure enthusiasts, for fans of light suspense, for those who appreciate excellent writing and character study, and for book clubs. I can see that wilderness enthusiasts might appreciate the jargon and gear talk and rate this story 5 stars.
Content Consideration: a woman is attacked and beaten up
My Star Rating: 4.5 Stars
Meet the Author, Peter Heller
Peter Heller is a longtime contributor to NPR, a contributing editor at Outside Magazine and Men’s Journal, and a frequent contributor to Businessweek. He is an award-winning adventure writer and the author of four books of literary nonfiction. He lives in Denver. Heller was born and raised in New York. He attended high school in Vermont and Dartmouth College in New Hampshire where he became an outdoorsman and whitewater kayaker. He traveled the world as an expedition kayaker, writing about challenging descents in the Pamirs, the Tien Shan mountains, the Caucuses, Central America and Peru. At the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he received an MFA in fiction and poetry, he won a Michener fellowship for his epic poem “The Psalms of Malvine.” He has worked as a dishwasher, construction worker, logger, offshore fisherman, kayak instructor, river guide, and world-class pizza deliverer. Some of these stories can be found in Set Free in China, Sojourns on the Edge. In the winter of 2002, he joined, on the ground team, the most ambitious whitewater expedition in history as it made its way through the treacherous Tsangpo Gorge in Eastern Tibet. He chronicled what has been called The Last Great Adventure Prize for Outside, and in his book Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet’s Tsangpo River.
Do you like suspense-filled wilderness stories?
Does this sound like a book your dad might like?
See additional ideas below!
More Recs for Dads
(a few favorite titles from my husband’s reading list)
If you are fortunate to have your dad in your life this Father’s Day, here are some great bookish ideas for Father’s Day. Titles are Amazon links and a few of these I have reviewed on the blog.
Science & Religion
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