THE RIVER is a wonderful adventure story in which two college friends, who are best friends and outdoorsmen, canoe the remote lakes and rivers of northwest Canada. They’ve done similar trips before. This time, though, they encounter a devastating forest fire that has them paddling for their lives — until they encounter a woman, who was left half-dead by her husband, and a pair of boozing fishermen. At this point, the fire is almost secondary, as they become embroiled in a very different level of life-and-death struggle.
Do I call this a thriller? Well, it is. But I was drawn to it by the praise for its prose, and I wasn’t disappointed. THE RIVER is beautifully written, worth reading for this alone. I might quibble that there’s too much detail on wilderness traveling and survival. But the author is either very experienced or has done his homework, so that what he writes rings true.
I’d have given this book five stars if the plotting hadn’t fallen down a bit at the end for me. More was summarized in the epilogue than I might have liked. But THE RIVER has left me thinking of life, of compassion versus survival, and of ways in which life experiences mold us.
THE RIVER is a haunting book. I found it to be an excellent change of pace.