From the author of The Dog Stars and The Painter, comes The River

Plot Summary

Peter Heller’s The River tells the winding story of two male college-aged best friends, Jack and Wynn, on another outdoor expedition. The pair love to traverse nature, and this time they decide to canoe a Canadian river. Little do they know a wildfire is surging in the forests near the river. As the fire is closing in on them, Jack and Wynn spot a couple arguing in the woods. They decide to mind their own business and move along, but when they climb a tree and see the true devastating nature of the wildfire, they return to warn the couple. Only the man remains, his wife missing.

Paperback cover of The River / Peter Heller

The Verdict

Heller does a stellar job at building atmosphere and merging wilderness and nature adventuring knowledge with the bones of a thriller. The couple’s mysterious fight plagues Jack and Wynn’s attempt to reconcile what they find with the need to escape the coming fiery devastation. This novel is a very nuanced thriller. The reader breathes quickly as they wonder if Jack and Wynn will escape – with or without one part or both parts of the couple.

The building of suspense is very slow throughout the first half of the novel, and the ideal reader can drift along with the unknown that Heller presents. The prose is poetic. It keeps the reader entranced as they wait to be fed morsels of plot. The second half of the novel picks up, and the ending is truly heart wrenching. This novel is one of journey, embarking on a wilderness adventure not all are sure to return from. I highly enjoyed the slow burn that this understated lyrical, natural thriller presented.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)