After hearing about The Wind Is Not a River by Brian Payton in our winter-list preview presentations back in early April, I knew this would be a book that I was going to enjoy. I won’t waste any time recounting plot; instead I’ll tell you what I like the most about this book.
Let’s start with an easy comparison, which would be Cold Mountain (which I loved and so did you). The main thing that attracted me to this book was the setting. The book is set during World War II, with half of it in Japanese occupied Kiska and Attu Island (part of the Aleutian Islands), which are very close to Alaska. My first thought when I read that was, “wait…what?” I had no idea that during WWII the Japanese had occupied territory so close to the North American mainland and I love novels based on historical events, especially novels as well written as this one. The landscape is so well done that it seems a reflection of the time period: cold, dangerous, and full of treachery.
I also absolutely love how the main character, journalist John Easley, is portrayed as a normal guy thrust into an extraordinary situation. His development moving forward is so detailed and written with such honesty, I felt like I was helpless watching this poor man try to survive this crazy circumstance by any means necessary. John’s physical state, much like how the landscape reflected the war, reflected his emotional state which of course leads to some horrific consequences.
It would be impossible to talk about this book without mentioning the theme of love, especially in times of stress. Without spoilers all I can say is that the amount of trouble that Helen, John’s wife, goes through to make sure he is alive and ok is awe inspiring and inspirational. I got the sense after a while of this underlying redemptive quality of love that is often lacking in other novels, but is in no way any less powerful than any emotion I can think of.
The Wind Is Not a River is the type of layered novel that fans of books like Cold Mountain and Atonement will really enjoy. Powerful and troubling, this is a book that will fascinate and hit you right in the feels.
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