The River.

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  • Source:
    Library Journal. Winter2019, Vol. 144 Issue 12, p65-65. 1/9p.
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Booklist Reviews 2019 January #1

Taking time off from jobs and classes, Dartmouth pals and consummate outdoorsmen Jack and Wynn, diehards nostalgic for the days of the voyageurs, undertake a weeks-long canoe trip in Northern Canada. Colorado rancher's son Jack is the quicker-witted, tougher of the two, while Wynn's sensitive connection to nature stems from his Vermont youth spent steeped in art and literature. The boys' fluency with one another and the rugged landscape is quickly tested, though, by an encroaching wildfire and their unknowing entry into an argument between the married couple they try to warn about it. Disasters, growing in severity, eat away at their provisions and their sanity. Heller (Celine, 2017) once again chronicles life-or-death adventure with empathy for the natural world and the characters who people it. He writes most mightily of the boys' friendship and their beloved, uncompromising wilderness, depicting those layers of life that lie far beyond what is more commonly seen: the fire's unapologetic threats, the wisdom of the birds and animals seeking their own safety, and the language of the river itself. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

LJ Reviews 2018 October #1

Tight as a good, strong handshake since freshman orientation, gentle Wynn and scrappy Jack decide to canoe northern Canada's Maskwa River together. But the journey doesn't turn out to be the dreamy, star-gazing experience they had eagerly anticipated. A wildfire threatens, and when they seek to warn a man and a woman they hear arguing on a distant, fog-ridden shore, they can't even find them. But the next day they see a man paddling the river alone, launching a lot of questions and finally a terrible fight for survival.

Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

LJ Reviews 2019 January #1

"They'd been smelling smoke for days." So opens Heller's fourth novel (after Celine), foretelling a disastrous outcome for what begins as a leisurely canoe trip by best friends Jack and Wynn. Experienced wilderness instructors, they paddle through creeks, white water, and a river in northern Ontario and soon encounter a creepy pair of drunk campers, whom they try to warn about the oncoming wildfire. When they hear a couple arguing at another campsite, they decide not to interfere, but the husband, Pierre, later arrives at their campsite disoriented and disheveled because wife Maia has disappeared into the woods after their argument and never returned. When Jack and Wynn travel back upstream to search for her, they find her barely alive, but how was she injured? The drunk campers? Pierre? A bear? Jack and Wynn find further trouble when they return to their campsite, and the two men are tested beyond endurance, with tragic results. VERDICT Using an artist's eye to describe Jack and Wynn's wilderness world, Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist Heller has transformed his own outdoor experiences into a heart-pounding adventure that's hard to put down. [See Prepub Alert, 9/10/18.]—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO

Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

PW Reviews 2018 November #3

Heller (Celine) explores human relationships buffeted by outside forces in his suspenseful latest. The central friendship is between two young men, Wynn and Jack, students who have taken a leave of absence from Dartmouth to explore the Canadian wilderness. Their late summer canoe trip, however, finds them pursued by two dangerous natural foes—a rapidly advancing wildfire and the equally swift approach of freezing temperatures. Their trip is further complicated when the two men's intervention in a domestic drama results in the addition of a deeply traumatized woman, Maia, to their traveling party. Short on supplies, racing against disaster toward civilization, Jack and Wynn's loyalties to one another are repeatedly strained. Jack and Wynn—who are both effortlessly erudite while also seemingly adept at virtually every skill of the outdoorsman—may be too well-rounded to be entirely believable. Their motivations are convincing, however, especially when nature's violence rekindles Jack's memories of his mother's accidental death years earlier. Maia, conversely, can at times feel more like a plot device than like a woman with an inherently dramatic story of her own. Nevertheless, with its evocative descriptions of nature's splendor and brutality, Heller's novel beautifully depicts the powers that can drive humans apart—and those that compel them to return repeatedly to one another. (Mar.)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.