The River by Peter Heller

The River

Peter Heller

From this charged beginning, master storyteller Peter Heller unspools a headlong, heart-pounding story of desperate wilderness survival about two college students who go on a wilderness canoe trip.

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"A fiery tour de force… I could not put this book down. It truly was terrifying and unutterably beautiful." –Alison Borden, The Denver Post

From the best-selling author of The Dog Stars, the story of two college students on a wilderness canoe trip--a gripping tale of a friendship tested by fire, white water, and violence

Wynn and Jack have been best friends since freshman 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. When they hear a man and woman arguing on the fog-shrouded riverbank and decide to warn them about the fire, their search for the pair turns up nothing and no one. But: The next day a man appears on the river, paddling alone. Is this the 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.

Advance Galley Reviews

I realized while in the middle of reading this book and contemplating other books that had the same effect on me that I really like "Man vs. nature" conflict stories. The River has interpersonal drama as well, but it was the descriptions of the ways the earth could kill them that I found most frightening. Forest fires, animals, starvation, hypothermia--these are the true terrors in the world. There were aspects of the ending that I predicted, mainly based on what I thought would be the most tragic, but that didn't really affect my enjoyment of the book. I loved every second of this thrill ride.

Camping and survival stories are a subgenre that I really enjoy reading, but don’t do that often. I really like the suspense and the use of imagery to make it feel like the reader is in the canoe with them. I also really liked the relationship between Jack and Wynn and what happens to their friendship once it’s tested by the elements. One thing I didn’t enjoy as much was the writing style. It felt like it jumped around between the perspectives of the characters, even though it was told in third person. It was also really easy to get lost if you hadn’t been paying attention for a few paragraphs. There were also some spots where the story didn't feel very dynamic but rather felt very static, and I think that was due in part to the writing style. Overall, reading this book reignited my love for camping, and I hope to read more survival stories in the future.

A slow start and heartbreaking ending but a wonderful journey down the river becomes a living nightmare. I enjoyed the story and the descriptions of the river and its surroundings as well as the forest fire were breathtaking.

Two college friends go off into the wilderness on a canoeing trip on the Maskwa River in Northern Canada. They find themselves being chased by a wildfire, and in their attempt to do the right thing, turn around and search for the couple they’d overheard arguing the day before. But when they see a man by himself the next day, they wonder if he was one of the two they’d heard before, and if so, what happened to his female companion? This was a nice book. I chose that word carefully. It felt a little muted for lack of a better term. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for a book like this. It was well-written and had a substantive plot, but I just didn’t feel strongly about it in either direction. It’s odd to me thinking back on it that such a short novel would feel so slow. I think had it been a short story, it would’ve kept my attention a bit more, and while I read it in one day, I didn’t feel particularly invested in the story or it’s characters. Sometimes great books just aren’t meant for specific people and this might be one of those for me. 3.5 stars.

Slow to start, not as suspenseful as I like but decent story overall and worth the read.

**3 Stars** This is my first Peter Heller book and I definitely think there is an audience for it, but it is not me. Objectively speaking, the book is very well-written and worthy of the praise. Heller does an excellent job describing the setting and with the characterization of Jack and Wynn and their friendship. However, I just couldn't get into it. The plot takes a backseat to the descriptions and it made it difficult for me to connect with. Because so much focus was on the Jack and Wynn's surroundings, when an event happened it was very anti-climactic.

This was different from the books I normally read - an outdoor adventure/ survival story, so I wasn't sure what to expect. However, I really enjoyed it - it was very atmospheric and the descriptions of camping life (to a one time camper like me) were very interesting. It does read abit slow, but picks up after the second half. Thanks for the advance copy Penguin!

Outdoor survival adventure that was incredibly atmospheric with a ton of great details! Overall I did enjoy this book. While the two main boys, Wynn and Jack, share a lot of similarities in their love of adventure and the outdoors, they're both incredibly different people with different stories. I thought the suspense of the story and the tension was carried well throughout the book, but for me the ending was rather abrupt and left a couple of unanswered questions.

Although less a thriller/mystery than I expected based on the description, The River is perfect for readers who enjoy wilderness survival or adventure stories. While I don't usually read books in this genre, I found The River to be well-written and suspenseful.

This book was everything I hoped it would be—five stars! Thank you so much to Penguin First to Read for the free ebook, but I HAD to go out and buy a copy to keep. The River is a great adrenaline rush—Jack and Wynn are dodging the rapids, a forest fire, and possibly a murder all while on vacation. But Heller’s greatest triumph with this book is developing the main characters as more than just macho outdoorsmen. The depth he gives to these gallant young men reached right into my heart. At first I felt the pacing was off, every time something exciting happened on the river (or was about to happen) we cut away to a memory or character description that felt out of place. But once I stopped expecting every minute to be rapids, I enjoyed the changes of pace and floated down the river with the boys. I don't see too many tales about deep male friendships these days, so take the time to enjoy this one.

I tried. I tried SOOOOO hard with this one. Unfortunately I just couldn't get into this book. It's kind of like walking down an endless, creepy hallway. You know something is going to happen but you never get to it.

"The River" is a well-written and atmospheric novel about two close college friends who embark on a canoe expedition in Canada that ends up imperiled and deadly. The natural setting and descriptions are wonderful, and the details of that friendship contrast well with the external challenges they face along the way, both from the natural setting itself and from various other characters that join the story at various depths of involvement. The story moves along with an excellent pace, with vital pieces of the plot placed well in the timeline as tensions build and the characters' choices play out along the way. This was one of those intriguing wilderness survival stories with many places to wonder, "what would I do in that situation?"

Two college best friends, Wynn and Jack, travel to Canada to canoe the Maskwa River and spend time in the wilderness. They envision a leisurely trip to enjoy nature, but their journey soon takes a turn. For starters, a wildfire is heading their way. Then, they hear a couple arguing, but the next day, they encounter a man paddling alone. Wynn and Jack decide to go in search of the missing woman. A lovely story of male friendship, adventure, and nature. Wynn and Jack met as freshmen in college and soon bonded over their love for books and nature. The young men are both knowledgeable of the wilderness and capable of taking care of themselves. Their canoeing adventure turns into a suspenseful search for a missing woman and a trip out of the wilderness before the wildfire reaches them. This is a beautifully written novel. I enjoy novels that focus on nature, and found this one to be very well done. Also, the wonderful male friendship in this book was great to read. The story is slow-paced, though it does get more exciting toward the end. I received a free digital copy of this book via First to Read.

I've canoed the remote Hayes River in Manitoba up to York Factory on Hudson Bay, and I'm so glad Peter Heller's book came out long after that. I'd have been gripped with fear the entire expedition had I read this before my river trip. Heller knows of what he writes. Every ripple and rapid that Jack and Wynn navigate feel like the real deal. I loved this book and would recommend it to wilderness adventurers, to armchair wilderness adventurers, and to those who love a tense, action-packed story of adventure.

This was a story about two friends who go canoeing on the river. The story starts out slowly with detailed descriptions of the river, woods and people that they encounter along the way. I like how the story portrays jack and wynn as best friend who share the outdoors in common and are really intuitive about their surroundings. I like how they are able to handle the dangers they encounter together and how they make it seem so effortless. This story gave me a lot of insight on canoeing and camping and how to take care of yourself if something should go wrong. Very informative.

ack and Wynn met as freshman at Dartmouth and soon developed a closed friendship based on their mutual love of books and the outdoors. As juniors they decide to take a leave from their studies to allow them to make a challenging canoeing trip in northern Canada. The excursion goes as planned with lots of fishing and enjoying all that nature has to offer until a raging wildfire causes the trip to unravel. In addition Jack and Wynn find more trouble when they cross paths with gun-totting drunks and a seriously injured woman (possibly left for dead by her husband. Heller uses these developments to highlight the differences that shape Jack and Wynn. The wilderness plays a central role in The River. Peter Heller employs it to convey beauty, suspense and violence. Heller has written an exceptional, tragic story.

I loved this story of Wynn and Jack and their friendship and their adventure. It was fascinating reading and as an amateur white water rafter the descriptions of the river and whitewater and what needs to be done was spot on. But I'm sure glad I've never had the adventure they had. Totally engrossing and couldn't stop reading. I think I read this in a day, it was that good.

This is a book about the friendship of Wynn and Jack who met at Dartmouth and had a shared love of literature and adventure. On a canoe trip in Canada they encounter a forest fire and men with guns. It could have been an exciting story, but it was not. There wasn’t enough thriller content in this book (or even male bonding) to make up for the tedium of camping, fishing and paddling. I read to the end just to find out the resolution but it wasn’t really worth the time I spent on it. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Thank you First to Read for the opportunity to read The River by Peter Heller. Two young men decide to get in a canoe and go to Canada. They decide this adventure will be good for them, they will learn about themselves and the world. Unexpected forces make their trip alot more than they bargained for including a fire, a missing person, and maybe a murder. Their survival depends on their willingness to trust each other and The RIver. Good story, very descriptive, and vivid. 3 stars!

I just couldn't get into it. Too many descriptions, i like more action!

This is the first book I have read by Peter Heller, but his quiet and effective way to hook the reader with a combination of action, flashbacks and credible twists in the plot tells me that it won't be the last. The book is a great example of how two college buddies on a quiet canoe trip can end up as the setting of a really entertaining thriller that had me hooked from cover to cover. Four big stars.

Jack and Wynn, two young men from very different backgrounds, meet at college and develop a friendship based on their love of the wilderness and adventure. They are on break from school and have planned a canoeing trip in Northern Canada. Things are going well until Jack climbs a tree and sees a forest fire some miles away but moving fast. They decide to cut short the lazy canoeing and fishing for a race to safety. But circumstances intervene. Two drunks, husband and wife fight, and a flashover combine to turn this fun trip into a desperate fight for survival. This book was exhausting to read, because I found myself in that canoe with them. And I actually felt guilty when I stopped to eat when they were have such a hard time finding food. The descriptions of canoeing, the river, the forest and the animals all combine to make this book like a movie in my head. Some may not appreciate all the descriptions but for me, it made it easier to imagine being there. Wonderful though tragic read.

THE RIVER was a beautifully told story of friendship and adventure. Peter Heller brought the Canadian wilderness to life and his unique writing style pulled me into the story. The story follows Wynn and Jack, two friends who bonded during a wilderness expedition upon arriving at Dartmouth and are now taking a break to take a canoe trip through back country Canada. The boys are well prepared for long days spent on the water and even for confrontations with bears, moose, or wolves. They are knowledgable about wilderness survival and are excited by the challenge of this journey together. But soon Wynn and Jack are faced with wildfire, missing people, and confrontations with other explorers. This is a relatively short book, but Heller gives the reader an in-depth look at what makes Wynn and Jack tick. These characters grew up in very different environments and are also quite different in their personalities, but their shared passion for the outdoors and exploration brings them together. The book moves a bit slowly at first before exploding into a whirlwind of suspense. I was glued to the pages as Wynn and Jack essentially fight for their lives. This is a uniquely told story of survival and friendship and I look forward to reading more by Peter Heller in the future.

Jack and Wynn are best friends who love adventures. Jack is from Colorado and Wynn grew up in Vermont, which is what drew me to the book being from Vermont. Neither are ready to head back to college, so they head on a canoe trip in Northern Canada on the Maskwa River. Both experienced canoers, their experience can't compare when a wildfire is tearing through the are. In addition to worrying about the wildfire, there are others also canoeing on the river. There are two drunks that the guys would rather steer clear of and what appears to be a husband and wife, they're arguing, so the boys keep moving along. Until guilt tells them they should let the couple know about the wildfire. This delay in their trip delays the distance they can be putting between them and the fire. After not being able to find the couple, they continue on. Only to find a single man canoeing down the river straight towards them. Why is this man alone and why is he so agitated? The River was a fun read, I loved Heller's descriptions of the river, the wildlife, and the knowledge of Wynn and Jack about canoeing, fishing, and camping. They had an excellent friendship and the recounting of their friendship made the book so much more meaningful. For me, it would have been a perfect read, but then I felt the book ended too abruptly. I feel like the last part of the book was rushed to an ending, which was a disappointment. Aside from the ending, it's a great read.

I really struggled to stay with the book and read the whole thing. The writing style made it hard to get into. The overabundance of fishing and river descriptions seemed repetitive. I hate to leave something unfinished and about half way through the book I started to want to know what happened. The story itself was good, if a bit sad. My heart hurt for Jack, who in my opinion, did the best he knew to. Thanks First to Read for my advance copy.

Thanks to Penguin's First To Read program for a free digital copy of this book. The following is my honest review: I had no idea what to expect going into this book. I think I figured it would be a mystery sort of story based on the description. In reality, it was that to some extent but I would definitely characterize it as more of a wilderness survival story. Jack and Wynn are two college aged men going on the trip of a lifetime. They've researched and planned and are looking forward to canoeing down a great river. When a massive fire threatens to overcome them before they can make it to safety, the boys need to rethink everything. To complicate matters more, they overhear a couple arguing and think something sinister has happened to the woman. It would be a mistake to think that this story is about the boys getting caught up in the mystery of the fighting couple. While it is to some extent, it's so much more about their relationship with one another, and the life experiences that have made them the men they are today. Heller does an amazing job bringing these boys to life and making you fall in love with them. He keeps you on the edge of your seat while taking you on a spectacular journey of their attempt to survive both wilderness and man. At times, you can cut the tension with a knife. At other points, your heart wants to break right open as you empathize with their struggles. If I had any complaint, it would be that I sometimes found myself bogged down in the detail or a bit confused by the narrative. Not really the author's fault. It has more to do with my unfamiliarity of certain things in the great outdoors like portages and other intricacies associated with canoeing. It didn't really matter though because the story itself was just too good to let small matters interfere with the overall feel of it. This was a great read and highly recommended.

3.75 stars Thanks to Penguin's First to Read and Knopf for allowing me to read and review this book. Kindle edition published March 5, 2019. Two college friends go on a Canadian camping trip. Thinking it will be a great time, they pack well and look forward to being together and being in the wild. However it seems one thing after another happens. They end up running from a natural disaster, they face off with a murderer, they lose all their gear and food, and they end up with an injured passenger on their way to safety. And worst of all, one of them does not make it out alive. This is my first introduction to Peter Heller. I enjoyed this book. His writing took you right into nature, put you in the boat rafting the rapids, and spiked your anxiety and apprehension as the trip progressed. This is an author I will read again.

Thanks to Penguin's First to Read for a digital ARC of this book. I have to admit, I wasn't sure what I was going to get with this one. As I read, though, I found myself completely drawn into the adventure of these two young men who are taking a trip of a lifetime in Canada. The book is short, but that's probably good since the tension ratchets up pretty high and you start to feel the stress along with the characters. I don't know that it would have been sustainable for a longer narrative. I raced through this, wanting desperately to see how they boys make it out of the wild. If I had a criticism, it would be that the narrative--already absolutely effective with the race against the forest fire--seems to get a bit complicated with the multiple other threats the boys face. I would have enjoyed this more with less (serious) conflict around every bend of the river. Ultimately, I didn't always know what the boys were talking about when they described their trip using the jargon of experienced outdoorsmen, but Heller tries to make it as clear as possible and because the prose is so often intoxicating, I didn't really care. Heller's ability to find the sublime in nature and stand in awe of its beauty and horror simultaneously is well worth the journey on this one.

I’m a city girl with no clue about rivers and woods but page after page this book transported me into that river with the main characters. The writing is superb. The tension builds and doesn’t let you go. Highly recommended.

Read 50 pages and I am quitting. Just too much description of the river, the scenery, everything! I am not that into the outdoors. Sorry Mr Heller

Peter Heller's new novel "The River" would have been a great short story or novella. Instead, I felt like the story got bogged down by too many descriptions, many of which became repetitive as the book went on. Someone with more experience with rowing & fishing might enjoy this, but I started to skim over the pages upon pages describing fly fish casting techniques, the different styles of using a canoe paddle or the flow of river. The story itself was good, however - a simple survivor story of man vs. nature vs. other man. (Won't say much more to avoid giving anything away.) Jack & Wynn are well defined characters with interesting backstories and a believable friendship. I just wished we could have spent more time with just them and less with the nature descriptions. This review is thanks to Penguin Random House's First to Read program.

This book is often described as being “unputdownable” and “riveting” and is supposed to “make your heart race,” but I didn’t find that to be the case. An intriguing premise: two college buddies canoe a river in northern Canada and are faced with an unexpected, ferocious wildfire, burdened with an injured passenger, and there is possibly a killer stalking them. They have to battle nature and maniacal river folk and try not to starve to death, burn up, or drown, and make it to the village, a few days’ paddling away. Sounds exciting, right? So, let’s break the mild, inchoate tension and talk about fly fishing for a few paragraphs. And maybe throw in pages of description of the river current, the birds, and irrelevant flashbacks of tragic childhoods. A list of gear, with brand names and specifications, is also helpful in tamping down any possible interest the reader may have developed. This book often reads like an REI catalog. There is some rudimentary buildup when the two men’s relationship begins to disintegrate over how they interpret the possible dangers. Jack gets a little paranoid, Wynn is too naive, but this fizzles out. And once things actually happen, the excitement is smothered with an epilogue. Though the author obviously knows what he’s talking about vis-a-vis wilderness/river survival (at least, I assume he does, knowing very little of such things myself), it’s repetitive. There are lengthy, lush descriptions of the environment, of paddling techniques, of fly fishing, of berry picking. They camp, fish, take inventory of their supplies ad nauseam, tend to the injured. The story would be thrilling, but the tense moments are interrupted with long periods of the mundane. Many thanks to Penguin First to Read for the advance copy in exchange for my review.

Two college buddies, Wynn and Jack set out on what is supposed to be an adventure of a lifetime canoeing down a river surrounded by the beauty of nature and living off the land. Both boys are experienced campers but things quickly run afoul when they realize that a fire is brewing and it is headed their way. They soon come across other campers and soon discover that the fire is not their greatest threat. Heller's writing is descriptive in a way that reveals his familiarity with the landscape. The River is the perfect admixture of backstory and action. The plot was taut enough to keep me engaged and turning the pages well into the night. Special thanks to Penguin Random House's First to Read program for access to this book. I look forward to reading Peter Heller's other titles in the near future. Next up: Celine

A well written book about two college aged men who go on the canoeing trip of a lifetime. During this trip they attempt to make it through a gauntlet of challenges the river throws their way such as a forest fire and a few people on the river with bad intent. Not to spoil anything but this trip leaves as participants scarred in different ways. The only part I didn’t really like was I thought Jack was a bit of a jerk and couldn’t see him acting that way in real life. A great read you won’t regret.

A pretty well done book. I haven't read anything by Peter Heller but I'll definitely look into more of his works after reading this one. It's such a good read that manages to be just descriptive enough to keep me interested. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in this genre of book.

**Book Review** Two friends from college, Wynn and Jack, take a trip to Northern Canada to navigate a river. They’ve planned to keep the trip as rustic as possible, no satellite phone, no watches, just the necessities. During their trip a forest fire erupts and they encounter a couple arguing in the shore. Now they are racing against time to get to safety and decide to warn the couple of the impending fire. What happens next will leave you guessing. This book would make a fantastic movie. It has all the elements to be an edge of your seat thriller and the scenery would be beautiful on a big screen. The writing was beautiful; very descriptive. ??????

I found this to be a desperately heartbreaking story but also annoyingly Hemingway-esque in style. Probably this was just not the book for me. I did enjoy Celine, his previous book but I have not real his earlier work.

Wow! What an amazing story of two college kids out trying to find themselves and enjoy what they love doing, but ending up having to struggle for survival. I couldn't put the book down. I had to know what happened next. Such a great adventure/thrilling/captivating read!

THE RIVER by Peter Heller. Beautifully descriptive nature scenes; the destruction and aftermath of forest fire; the bonds of friendship; the power and unknown challenges of a river’s flowing water; these are all part of Peter Heller’s new novel, The River. ????? Wilderness instructors Jack and Wynn have been best friends since meeting at Dartmouth. They have headed to Canada for a canoeing trip, some fishing, and some fireside literary discussions—all passions the two share. Almost immediately the trip is threatened by a huge forest fire. Because of the fire bearing down on them the guys turn back to warn some other paddlers but they encounter dangers they don’t expect. ????? Heller’s beautiful prose deserves to be read slowly and savored but I found myself turning the pages faster. The harrowing experiences make this read almost like a thriller.????? I have enjoyed all of Heller’s fiction works but The River is definitely my favorite yet!

Jack and Wyatt met at Dartmouth and realized that they had a lot in common, including a love of all things outdoorsy. Before they go back to school in the fall they decide to take a slow canoe trip through some remote wilderness, including no cell phones. (Nothing is gonna happen, right?) They get into some trouble and have to rely on each other to get out of it. This is wonderfully written book, and it made my heart race. I felt like I was right there on that river with them (I think I even had sympathy shoulder cramps from rowing :)) I started this book and couldn't put it down. Thanks for the advanced copy!


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