The Teacher of the Human Spirit
A Review of
The River: A Novel
Hardback: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019
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Reviewed by Al Brooke
The sun sets in the cold without friends
Without reproaches after all it has done for us
It goes down believing in nothing
When it has gone I hear the stream running after it
It has brought its flute it is a long way.
– W. S. Merwin, “Dusk in Winter”
Peter Heller’s fourth novel starts with smoke.
From the first pages we are introduced to each of the elements which will dog the two friends — Wynn and Jack — as they canoe in the Canadian wilderness: a forest fire, two drunks on land, and a pair of arguing voices in the fog. The river itself seems no problem to them, as they feel prepared for that.