The River: A novel (Vintage Contemporaries) (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

"I don’t often read books that are considered wilderness adventure stories, but something about the description of The River drew me in, and I’m so glad it did. Set on a lonely river leading to Hudson Bay, Heller creates a world reminiscent of a Hitchcock movie, with a slowly building sense of urgency and unrest as the two main characters race to reach the safety of the Bay ahead of a massive forest fire while navigating the other paddlers on the river, at least some of whom are not to be trusted.

Heller’s descriptions of scenery are so rich, so all-encompassing that it’s almost possible to forget the tension of the story that is happening in that stunning setting. His characters are well thought out and their backstories are provided in a manner that truly lends to the story. Wynn, hailing from the same corner of Vermont as my family, felt particularly real to me, and the place he grew up was so well researched, so perfectly described, you could practically use it as a road map to that little corner of the state.

As soon as I finished this book I called my dad to recommend it to him, because it’s just the sort of book he (a retired English teacher) was always trying to get me to read when I was younger. It is filled with absolutely lovely writing, layers of story, and intermittent bursts of action that make you gasp before being soothed back into the scenery just long enough to forget that the river bends, and something may be waiting around that curve."

--Lucinda, Longfellow Books

— From Lucinda Recommends!

March 2019 Indie Next List

“Peter Heller can take you on a journey through nature like no other writer. The River is the story of two close friends wanting nothing more than to enjoy their time together on a trip through the Canadian wilderness, and fly fishing has never been so beautifully portrayed nor has the serenity of water and nature. But the peacefulness slowly wanes and the tension begins to build as the trip becomes a race against encroaching forest fires and an attempt to save the life of the mysterious woman they have picked up along the way. Heller has created a story of friendship and survival that should not be missed.”
— Mary McBride, Rainy Day Books, Fairway, KS





Wynn and Jack have been best friends since college 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.

One night, with the fire advancing, they hear a man and woman arguing on the fog-shrouded riverbank; the next day, a man appears on the river, paddling alone. Is this the same 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.

About the Author

PETER HELLER is the national bestselling author of Celine, The Painter, and The Dog Stars. The Painter was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and won the prestigious Reading the West Book Award, shared in the past by Western writers such as Cormac McCarthy and Terry Tempest Williams, and The Dog Stars, which was published to critical acclaim and lauded as a breakout bestseller, has been published in twenty-two languages to date. Heller is also the author of four nonfiction books, including Kook: What Surfing Taught Me About Love, Life, and Catching the Perfect Wave, which was awarded the National Outdoor Book Award for Literature. He holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in poetry and fiction and lives in Denver, Colorado.

Praise For…

“Vivid and engaging. . . . A suspenseful tale told with glorious drama and lyrical flair.”
The New York Times Book Review

“A fiery tour de force. . . . Terrifying and unutterably beautiful.”
The Denver Post

“[A] poetic and unnerving wilderness thriller. . . . Full of rushing life and profound consequences.”
USA Today

“Packed with action. . . . Engaging. . .satisfying.”
Outside Magazine

“[A] modern-day survival tale. . . . Takes on the urgency of a thriller.”
The New York Times

 “[Heller] has created indelible characters. . . . The River is a beauty-of-nature/cruelty-of-humanity hybrid, but this time he leans into the thriller aspect of the tale, with gripping results.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

"The prose is glorious, Heller’s evocation of the natural surroundings stunning, the tension razor-sharp."
The Observer (London)

“Stunning, beautiful, life-affirming, and heartbreaking. . . . Heller writes with deep respect and empathy for not only nature and its inhabitants but also of human frailty, friendship, loyalty, and love. [An] exquisite book.”
Criminal Element

“[A] superbly crafted adventure-action-mystery story. . . . Reminiscent of James Dickey’s classic Deliverance.”
New York Journal of Books

“As much an allegory about man’s impact on the Earth as it is an adventure story. . . . Heller’s melodious renderings are drawn from a lifetime of not just witnessing nature, but of actively paying attention to how it is woven together.”
5280 Magazine

“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.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Peter Heller has struck gold again with The River. . . . Masterly paced and artfully told, The River is a page-turner.”
BookPage (starred review)

“Fresh and affecting. . . . [Heller’s] pacing is masterful. . . . An exhilarating tale delivered with the pace of a thriller and the wisdom of a grizzled nature guide.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Product Details
ISBN: 9780525563532
ISBN-10: 0525563539
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2020
Pages: 272
Language: English
Series: Vintage Contemporaries