BookBrowse Reviews The Wind Is Not a River by Brian Payton

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Wind Is Not a River

by Brian Payton

The Wind Is Not a River by Brian Payton
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2014, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2014, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


The Wind is Not a River is both a survival story and love story that highlights a little-known slice of American history.

When I was a preteen, I devoured all the survival stories I could get my hands on – from Gary Paulsen's Hatchet to Theodore Taylor's The Cay, Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Jean Craighead George's The Talking Earth, among many others. So when I began reading Brian Payton's The Wind Is Not a River, I could tell immediately that it would be a worthy addition to this genre (although obviously written for more mature readers). Payton's novel will also appeal to fans of love stories.

Like any good survival tale, The Wind Is Not a River starts with a disaster—in this case, a wartime plane crash. Journalist John Easley finds himself on the Aleutian island of Attu in April 1943, just after the small plane he was on was shot down by the Japanese. Unbeknownst to nearly everyone back home in Seattle, John was on a secret mission to investigate the 1942 Japanese attack and subsequent occupation of the Aleutians, a story virtually unknown to the American public because it had been largely censored by the U.S. military. John and his sole traveling companion, a young Navy man named Karl, are ill-prepared to survive in the harsh Alaskan environment even if it is April and relatively mild by subarctic standards.

Meanwhile, back home in Seattle, John's wife Helen has become increasingly anxious about her husband's disappearance. The two of them have recently had a major argument—she wanted him to devote more energy to making a home and starting a family, while he felt compelled to pursue his plans; and John left home without giving Helen concrete idea of his whereabouts or his plans. Convinced that her husband is in danger, Helen sets out on her own journey (including a stint in the United Service Organization's entertainment corps) to find John and bring him home again.

The novel alternates between John's and Helen's points of view, gradually revealing more about these characters' personalities and history. We learn about the fate of John's beloved brother Warren, an airman for the Canadian military, whose death causes John, best known for his writing in National Geographic, to refashion himself as a war correspondent. We learn about what attracted the much-younger Helen to John (and vice versa) and about the surprising reserves of resourcefulness and talent neither one of them suspected she possesses.

The author Brian Payton, like John Easley, is a journalist who has written extensively about wilderness and the environment (his previous books include Shadow of the Bear: Travels in Vanishing Wilderness). It makes sense, then, that his writing about the bleakly beautiful Aleutian Islands should be particularly evocative and well-crafted: "Easley finds a ribbon of green near the edge of the beach where spring has come ashore." Even as he highlights the stark choices that characterize John's battle for survival, Payton shows himself to be equally adept at depicting Helen's gumption as she joins the USO under false pretenses in order to get close to her husband's destination.

The Wind Is Not a River will spark readers' interest in a remote part of the world and in this 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

This review was originally published in February 2014, and has been updated for the September 2014 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Battle of the Aleutian Islands

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hillbilly Elegy
    Hillbilly Elegy
    by J.D. Vance
    In this illuminating memoir, Vance recounts his trajectory from growing up a "hillbilly" in ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dark Flood Rises
    The Dark Flood Rises
    by Margaret Drabble
    Margaret Drabble, the award-winning novelist and literary critic who is approaching eighty and ...
  • Book Jacket: All Our Wrong Todays
    All Our Wrong Todays
    by Elan Mastai
    You need a great deal of time to read All Our Wrong Todays, but don't let that put you off. ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Our Short History
    by Lauren Grodstein

    Lauren Grodstein breaks your heart, then miraculously pieces it back together so it's stronger, than before.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Lola
    by Melissa Scrivner Love

    An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -