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.Read more...
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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-10-21
- Reviewer: Staff
This top-notch WWII historical novel from Vancouver-based writer Payton (Hail Mary Corner) involves the little-remembered Japanese invasion and partial occupation of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. War correspondent John Easley is shot down in a seaplane along with six crewmembers in April 1943, just off the barren island of Attu. He and the only other survivor, young Texan aviator Karl Bitburg, hunker down in a beachside cave while hiding from the Japanese. Meanwhile, John’s wife, Helen, is living in Seattle while helping her father, Joe, recuperate from a stroke. She resolves to search for her missing husband, from whom she’s been separated ever since she delivered an ultimatum to him to choose between her and his work. John had chosen to leave Helen and continue what he regarded as his patriotic duty as a war reporter, spurred on by the memory of his kid brother Warren’s fatal crash into the English Channel while serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Helen joins a USO troupe assigned to Alaska but finds the strict censorship of military information a hindrance to her desperate quest. Payton has delivered a richly detailed, vividly resonant chronicle of war’s effect on ordinary people’s lives. Agent: Victoria Sanders, Victoria Sanders & Associates. (Jan.)
On the Alaskan war front
Losing a loved one to the chaos of war would be devastating enough, but lingering doubt as to whether a husband were alive or dead could slowly consume a wife. Especially if her last words to him were an ultimatum: Choose his reporting work, or her. In The Wind Is Not a River, Helen and John Easley find themselves caught in the upheaval of World War II, separated emotionally and physically by the lengths to which he will go for a story.
John poses as a lieutenant to sneak into the Japanese-occupied Aleutian Islands, hoping to report about this little-known theatre of the war—which the Americans would prefer the press keep quiet about. His plane goes down on the island of Attu as the novel opens, and instantly the reader is thrust into his fight for survival. The weather is unrelenting and unstable, the only food available is what he and the crash’s only other survivor, young airman Karl, can catch and kill, and discovery by Japanese soldiers is a daily threat.
Helen, at home with her guilt and her ill father, eventually can take the waiting no longer. She, too, lies her way north to Alaska, joining a troupe of USO Swingettes, in a passionate effort to find John.
Canadian writer Brian Payton deftly juxtaposes Helen’s and John’s separate struggles to stay alive and sane against forces that would render them otherwise. Set against a meticulously described Alaskan setting, each harrowing or quietly painful minute is portrayed in realistic detail. John’s ordeal proves miraculous and heartbreaking, told in passages that are sometimes difficult to read due to their intensity of rawness or sorrow. The book arcs poetically across the distance between Helen and John, drawing out the separation that they (and the reader) can hardly bear.