by Peter Heller
Alfred A. Knopf, 2019, 253 pages, General Fiction
Best friends Jack and Wynn are taking a break from college to spend a leisurely summer camping in northern Canada. Life is idyllic; their days are spent canoeing and fishing, and they curl up by the fire at night with their pipes and settle in for a good book, a bit of stargazing, and great conversation. Their trip is threatened, however, when they begin to see signs of a raging wildfire edging closer and closer. As they head downriver to try to avoid the fire, they run into other campers who seem to be running from more than just the flames.
The River begins very slowly, comparing the fishing techniques used by Jack and Wynn, and giving detailed accounts of how they pack their canoe every morning. But the threat of the wildfire lies underneath the descriptions of leisurely days, and the tension of this book builds and builds, and just keeps on building. This combination of an adventure/survival novel with the elements of a thriller really works. Although this is the first novel by Peter Heller that I’ve read, I’ll definitely be reading his back catalog soon.
Read Peter Heller if you’ve enjoyed books like The Dry by Jane Harper, or The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.