Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Fiction Review: The River

My first book of 2021 was The River by Peter Heller, a Booktopia author I like (I enjoyed his novel Celine) and a book that my husband and many friends had enjoyed. It was chosen as a Best Book of the Year by several media outlets and nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2020. This outdoor adventure thriller kept me riveted to the page!

Wynn and Jack are college students at Dartmouth and best friends, who have bonded through their shared love of the outdoors. Wynn grew up in Vermont on his family's farm, and Jack comes from a ranch in Colorado. The two young men have taken time off from school to paddle the lakes and rivers of Canada on an extended canoe trip leading to Hudson Bay. They are in a remote and isolated area, paddling and camping, and have rarely seen any other people on their trip. One day, after hiking to the top of a hill, they see a huge forest fire in the near distance and soon they can smell the smoke and char in the air as it quickly advances. They need to make the rest of their trip as fast as possible in order to outrun the fire, but they soon encounter other obstacles. In the fog one night, they hear a man and woman arguing on shore, and the next day, they encounter the man, alone. What happened to his wife? Wynn and Jack have some difficult decisions to make, and it will take every bit of their outdoor skills to make it out of the wilderness.

This is a gripping, super-suspenseful novel with the young men battling both natural and man-made horrors as they race against time. It's like a mystery/crime thriller crossed with an outdoor adventure story, and the result is heart-pounding tension and an intense look into human nature. Like Heller's previous book, Celine, this one is not only a great suspense novel but also delves into the characters and their relationship. Wynn and Jack come from very different backgrounds but have a close bond that is tested during this unexpected ordeal. Their adventure is not for the faint of heart--there is a fair amount of violence (manmade) and carnage (natural)--but the men's friendship is at the center of this intense and compelling novel.

253 pages, Vintage Contemporaries 

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here, from later in the novel after the trouble has started, and/or download it from Audible.


You can purchase The River from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:

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You can also buy through indie bookstores using Bookshop.



Or you can order The River from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.



  1. This sounds really good and like it would make a great movie!

    1. Ha! That's exactly what I thought, Helen!! While I was writing the review, I even checked IMdB to see if a movie is in the works yet - nothing yet, but I hope it's coming!

  2. I really liked The River also - I had some serious problems with Celine, but decided to give The River a chance since it did get good reviews and I like adventure/survival stories. I thought Heller did a terrific job with the suspense and the ending worked - so often, endings to books like this can be problematic, but I found this one to have sufficient closure for me.

    1. Hey, Jane - you might be interested in this, too. This bookstore is hosting a virtual author event with Peter Heller to talk about The River on March 15. I;m going to sign my husband and I up for it!