The River by Peter Heller

Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for providing this eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: wildfires, abuse, death, murder.

Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars


Two best friends, Jack and Wynn, have decided to take the summer to canoe the Maskwa River from Moose Lake to Hudson Bay in northern Canada. Both have been looking forward to their break from ex-girlfriends, work, school, and technology by hitting the water and living in the wilderness. Jack grew up in Colorado on a ranch, and Wynn grew up in Vermont, so they are both comfortable escaping into the wild and living off the land.

On their trip, they’d only come across a pair of guys in a small motorboat who were clearly inebriated, and managed to stay ahead of them. But then, while becoming increasingly more aware of a smokey-fog, Jack and Wynn overhear what sounds like a couple in a heated argument. Unable to help eavesdropping, they keep paddling by, and try to at least give the couple some space.

When the two break for camp, they decide to check out the lay of the land- and this is when Jack discovers that they are roughly 20 miles ahead of a raging forest fire. With no satellite phone or radio to call for an airlift, the young men have no choice but to out-paddle the fire. Their leisurely adventure has become a race against the clock. Then, matters get even more complicated when they realize that something happened to the arguing couple- and the woods become even more dangerous than they expected.

The pacing of the novel fit the character’s story, going from a leisurely ramble with flashbacks of the past, to quick-paced action. There are times where the plot is a little disjointed, jumping from one scenario into the next, but it’s not so distracting as to lose focus on the direction of the tale. However, what is bothered me is the point of views changing without clear indication that they were going to do so. Also, for some reason, I felt an emotional disconnect from a story that should be pretty emotional for the reader. I can’t go into too much detail without spoilers, but there were only a few instances where I felt the emotional scenes come alive from the pages. I will say that there are some good twists and turns, and the climax of the story raised my opinion of the overall novel, but the ending was completely unsatisfying for me.

Overall, I’d recommend it for the outdoor/nature fans, for those who like adventure reads, and for those who are into suspense and thriller novels, but it was just an average read for me.

Expected Publication Date: March 5, 2019

Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group

TL/DR: The River is a nature/suspense mystery about two friends who are traveling via canoe down the Maskwa River to Hudson Bay, and end up running into trouble.

Read it? Yes- the prose it pretty and atmospheric.

Recommend it?For the fans of nature novels, I would. Otherwise, I’d pass on this one.

Buy it? I wouldn’t buy this one, personally- I’d say borrow and read it, then decide if you loved it enough to own a copy.

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  • The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

Categories: Action Thriller, Book Review, Contemporary, Fiction, Mystery

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