Summary and book reviews of The Wind Is Not a River by Brian Payton

The Wind Is Not a River

By Brian Payton

The Wind Is Not a River
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2014,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: 2 Sep 2014,
    320 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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Book Summary

The Wind Is Not a River is Brian Payton's gripping tale of survival and an epic love story in which a husband and wife - separated by the only battle of World War II to take place on American soil - fight to reunite in Alaska's starkly beautiful Aleutian Islands.

Following the death of his younger brother in Europe, journalist John Easley is determined to find meaning in his loss. Leaving behind his beloved wife, Helen, he heads north to investigate the Japanese invasion of Alaska's Aleutian Islands, a story censored by the U.S. government. 

While John is accompanying a crew on a bombing run, his plane is shot down over the island of Attu. He survives only to find himself exposed to a harsh and unforgiving wilderness, known as "the birthplace of winds." There, John must battle the elements, starvation, and his own remorse while evading discovery by the Japanese.

Alone at home, Helen struggles with the burden of her husband's disappearance. Caught in extraordinary circumstances, in this new world of the missing, she is forced to reimagine who she is - and what she is capable of doing. Somehow, she must find John and bring him home, a quest that takes her into the farthest reaches of the war, beyond the safety of everything she knows.

April 1, 1943

When John Easley opens his eyes to the midday sky his life does not pass before him. He sees instead a seamless sheet of sky gone gray from far too many washings. He blinks twice, then focuses on the tiny black specks drifting across the clouds. They pass through his field of vision wherever he turns to look. Last winter, the doctor pronounced them floaters. Said that by Easley's age, thirty-eight, plenty of people had them. Little bits of the eyeball's interior lining had come free and were swimming inside the jelly. What Easley actually sees are not the specks themselves, but the shadows they cast as they pass over his retina. To avoid their distraction, the doctor advised him to refrain from staring at a blank page, the sky, or snow. These are his first conscious thoughts on the island of Attu.

He sits up straight. When he does, it feels as if his head has a momentum all its own, as if it wants to continue its upward trajectory. A dull pain jabs his ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

The Wind Is Not a River will likely spark readers' interest in a remote part of the world and in a little-known chapter of World War II history even as it tells a memorable story about the power of love and the will to survive.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Full Review Members Only (1022 words).

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Payton has delivered a richly detailed, vividly resonant chronicle of war's effect on ordinary people's lives.

Kirkus Reviews

Through a narrative strategy that alternates chapters between John's plight and Helen's search, Payton effectively gives the reader two visions - and two versions - of a neglected aspect of World War II.

Library Journal

Starred Review. As a nearly lifelong inhabitant of Alaska and having spent three years on Adak in the Aleutians, this reviewer was particularly gratified by the accuracy of the author's portrayal of the land and people of the 'birthplace of the winds.' Bravo!

Author Blurb Ron Rash, bestselling author of Serena and Nothing Gold Can Stay
What a great-hearted, beautifully written, and utterly riveting novel. It has a power that brings to mind the old Greek stories of war, love, and journey.

Author Blurb Wayne Grady, author of Emancipation Day
Not since Cold Mountain have I read such a brilliantly sustained metaphor for our collective guilt and grief, nor such a stirring testament to the redemptive power of love. We need this novel now.

Author Blurb David Vann, author of Legend of a Suicide and Caribou Island
Beautifully written, lyrical and elegiac, The Wind Is Not A River is a novel you must read…John Easley's struggle to survive and his wife Helen's struggle to find him form the most triumphant and heartbreaking love story I've read in years.

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Battle of the Aleutian Islands

In The Wind Is Not A River, the protagonist, journalist John Easley, finds himself on the Aleutian island of Attu in April 1943, when the Battle of the Aleutian Islands is taking place.

We've all heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the precipitating event that led the United States to fight in World War II. But perhaps we might not be as familiar with the Battle of the Aleutian Islands that took place from June 1942 to August 1943 – the only WWII campaign to be fought on U.S. soil. Possibly due to an embargo on information from the Alaskan front, it was overshadowed by the more dramatic war stories from Europe and the South Pacific. This might explain why the long struggle to reclaim two American ...

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