A Book Review by Amy Schuster
The River is a gripping, harrowing novel about friendships, survival, and natural disasters. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but the story starts by detailing the canoeing expedition of Jack and Wynn, best friends who both love spending quality time outdoors. Their days commence by paddling along the Maskwa River in northern Canada and then are followed by leisure activities including picking blueberries, reading books, and gazing at the stars in the evening sky. One night they overhear a man and a woman bickering at a campsite nearby but don’t take any further action. Their adventures come to a screeching halt as a problem arises: there is a small wildfire spreading around them. They start to depart but decide to turn around to warn other campers about the fire. But they find no one around them. The next day, they encounter a man paddling alone on the river who informs Wynn and Jack that his wife went missing in the fog. The wildfire exponentially grows in size putting the two friends in a dire situation. Even though Wynn and Jack are both skeptical of the man, they both decide to help the man find his wife amidst the chaos around them.
Even though the book started off rather slowly, it definitely gained momentum and then turned into another novel that will leave you at the edge of your seat right up until the shocking ending . This book is so action-packed, you will be amazed that it is only 272 pages in total. It was suspenseful reading about these two boys in a state of urgency who risk their safety to help out strangers. Heller’s imagery and articulation of the wilderness and wildfire is beautiful, heartbreaking, and distressing, especially when he describes all the animals fleeing the fire. Heller has a profound way with words and the meanings behind them. “There’s always relief in committing to a decision, even when there’s no choice.” Heller did an excellent job developing the characters of Jack and Wynn and giving us their backgrounds.
Overall, I would give this book 8 out of 10 stars.
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