The Wind Is Not a River

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Overview

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 ...

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The Wind Is Not a River

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Overview

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. 

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Sarah Ferguson
In his gripping, meditative second novel, Brian Payton explores this nearly forgotten chapter of American history.
Publishers Weekly
10/21/2013
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.)
—Booklist
“Payton, in the loveliest of prose, illuminates a little-known aspect of WWII while portraying a devoted couple who bravely face down the isolation, pain, and sacrifice of wartime.”
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-05
An unusual novel in that Payton takes us to a theater of war not normally visited--the Japanese-occupied Aleutian Islands in 1943. John Easley is deeply involved in the war but ironically not as a soldier--he's a journalist. On a quest for the truth about what's going on in this remote Alaskan territory, he is shot down and forced into survival mode on the island of Attu. The only other survivor of the crash is Airman 1st Class Karl Bitburg, a Texan running away from an impossible home life. For a while, the two survive on mussels and live in a cave, hidden from the 2,000 Japanese in their immediate area. Meanwhile, John's wife, Helen, is consumed with worry about her missing husband and decides to take desperate measures to learn of his fate. An amateur dancer and performer, she gets a job with the United Services Organization (thanks in part to a sympathetic band leader) and wangles a trip to entertain the troops in Alaska. She's able to find out small bits of information--for example, that John passed himself off as a Canadian soldier using the uniform of his younger brother, Warren, recently deceased in action around the English Channel. Further complications on the homefront involve Helen's father, Joe Connelly, whose recent stroke has left him somewhat incapacitated. Torn between caring for her father and looking for her husband, Helen is eased somewhat by Joe's insistence that she follow her heart and seek out John. Eventually, husband and wife reunite, but Payton keeps this reunion poignantly brief. 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.
David Vann
“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.”
Booklist
“Payton, in the loveliest of prose, illuminates a little-known aspect of WWII while portraying a devoted couple who bravely face down the isolation, pain, and sacrifice of wartime.”
Ron Rash
“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.”
USA Today
”A haunting love story wrapped in an engaging and unsettling history lesson…Along the way, readers will learn not just about a fascinating and largely forgotten slice of American history, but what it felt like to live through it.”
BookPage
“Set against a meticulously described Alaskan setting, each harrowing or quietly painful minute is portrayed in realistic detail…The book arcs poetically across the distance between Helen and John, drawing out the separation that they (and the reader) can hardly bear.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Payton crafts a beautiful, heart-inspiring and heart-wrenching tale of love, forgiveness, loneliness, the strength of the human spirit, and the power of faith in God and family. These are not the stories we heard from our parents, but they are believable nonetheless.”
—Chicago Tribune
“Exquisite….[Payton] gives us images that are bright and crisp… [and] can write the heck out of Alaska and war…”
—New York Times Book Review
“In this gripping, meditative second novel, Brian Payton explores this nearly forgotten chapter of American history.”
—Seattle Times
“Powerful… thoughtfully conceived…The pages of this book practically turn themselves… By turns greathearted and grim, “The Wind Is Not a River” probes the reasons for, and the consequences of, the human practice of war...this story may haunt you long after you’ve put the book down.”
—The Oregonian (Portland)
“...Payton seamlessly blends fact and fiction to tell the story of a lesser-known subject - the Japanese invasion of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands during World War - that’s equally as meditative and just as informed as his nonfiction…”
New York Times Book Review
“In this gripping, meditative second novel, Brian Payton explores this nearly forgotten chapter of American history.”
Chicago Tribune
“Exquisite….[Payton] gives us images that are bright and crisp… [and] can write the heck out of Alaska and war…”
Seattle Times
“Powerful… thoughtfully conceived…The pages of this book practically turn themselves… By turns greathearted and grim, “The Wind Is Not a River” probes the reasons for, and the consequences of, the human practice of war...this story may haunt you long after you’ve put the book down.”
The Oregonian (Portland)
“...Payton seamlessly blends fact and fiction to tell the story of a lesser-known subject - the Japanese invasion of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands during World War - that’s equally as meditative and just as informed as his nonfiction…”
Wayne Grady
“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.”
Library Journal
★ 11/15/2013
Still grieving the loss of his brother who went down with his plane over the English Channel, journalist John Easley, determined to make sense of the war, dons his brother's uniform and heads to the territory of Alaska where he hopes to document the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands. While John is accompanying a crew on a bombing run, his plane is downed over the island of Attu. He and one other survivor of the crash endure a desperate struggle to survive the cold and hunger while evading patrolling Japanese soldiers. Meanwhile John's wife, Helen, leaves her ailing father in Seattle and joins a USO show, hoping to make her way to Alaska to search for her husband. This moving and powerfully written novel explores themes of war, life and death, morality, and love in a unique World War II battleground that very few people outside Alaska know about or remember. VERDICT Payton, known for his nonfiction works Shadow of the Bear and The Ice Passage, has written a suspenseful, beautifully researched title that readers will want to devour in one sitting. 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! [See Prepub Alert, 7/22/13.]—Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage P.L., AK
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062279972
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/7/2014
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 59,554
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Payton has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Boston Globe. He is the author of Shadow of the Bear: Travels in Vanishing Wilderness, which was chosen as a Barnes & Noble Book Club pick, a Pearl's Pick on NPR, and a National Outdoor Book Awards Book of the Year. The Ice Passage: A True Story of Ambition, Disaster, and Endurance in the Arctic Wilderness and his novel Hail Mary Corner were published to acclaim in Canada. He lives with his family in Vancouver.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2014

    What a beautiful book with the prefect balance of 2 people strug

    What a beautiful book with the prefect balance of 2 people struggling to reconnect amidst wordly and personal strife! The physical and emotional pain were so authentic and you just had to keep reading to see what would happen. I also so appreciated the bittersweet ending as being more real than any fairy tale.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2014

    I REALLY enjoyed this book. The characters were very well writte

    I REALLY enjoyed this book. The characters were very well written and the setting was one I was previously unfamiliar with in relation to WWII.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2014

    Have not yet read the book.

    Have not yet read the book.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

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