A pair of college friends set out on a canoe trip on a remote Canadian river planning to bond over fishing, books and their love of outdoors. But they quickly find themselves in a desperate and brutal bid to survive the wilderness in Peter Hiller’s The River.
Wynn and Jack knew there would be certain risks associated with canoeing on an isolated river, but a huge wildfire they spot raging in the distance changes their itinerary and they try to make a quick exit north to Hudson Bay. Along the way they hear a man and woman arguing in the fog and when the man turns up later, alone, their trip takes another, more desperate turn.
Hiller is author of the best-selling and masterful, post-apocalyptic thriller The Dog Stars. In The River (digital galley, Knopf), Hiller shows his talent at combining raw adventure with poetic and insightful writing. His novels ooze with humanity and he seems to capture perfectly the emotions and unique responses people have to adversity.
A young, newly single woman struggles to raise her three-year-old daughter in Tokyo in Yūko Tsushima’s Territory of Light, an empathetic and compelling look at single motherhood.
Following a break with her husband, the nameless narrator was not prepared to be on her own and at times is not up to the task. She struggles with work, raising her child, her temper, alcohol and managing basic home chores. Through it all she begins to question her own goals and her qualities as a mother. But, though she may not realize it, during this first year of being alone she is rebuilding the foundation of her life.
Originally written as 12 serialized stories for a Japanese magazine in 1978 and ’79, and now translated to English by Geraldine Harcourt, the novella Territory of Light (digital galley, Farrar, Straus and Giroux) moves at a leisurely pace, often revisiting the same themes. But the vignettes blend nicely together and the repeating themes add a sort of elegant, poetic structure to the story.
In The Plotters, groups of assassins do the dirty work of mysterious criminal masterminds. When one assassin, Reseng, takes liberties on a couple of assignments, he disrupts the carefully crafted plans of one anonymous “plotter” and puts his own life at risk.
Hailed as an example of Korean noir, Un-su Kim’s The Plotters has received glowing reviews and promised everything I might like in a thriller: Dark humor, mystery, action and beautiful writing. The book opens with a touching and brilliantly written chapter following Reseng on an assignment. But beyond the captivating opening, the novel wavered.
While The Plotters (digital galley, Doubleday) is full of well written and moody scenes, the story unfolds in a slow and haphazard manner and it takes more than half of the book for some major characters to be introduced. Unfortunately it isn’t until then, a little too late, that we begin to understand where the plot is going.
It all starts with one college student falling asleep and not waking up. But the sleeping sickness quickly spreads through a small California town in Karen Thompson Walker’s unique and authentic dystopian thriller The Dreamers.
As the story progresses the reaction of the characters feels frighteningly real. People panic in a grocery store, but still have time for helpful gestures; business men and women trapped in the town wander aimlessly and are thankful for a helping hand; a father goes to great lengths to protect his newborn child and college students first panic and then volunteer to assist with the sick.
If you’ve ever wondered how you might react in a crisis, you’re likely to find some version of yourself among the characters in this novel. The Dreamers (digital galley, Random House) is a refreshing and exhilarating addition to disaster fiction.
If you’re looking for a good book to read, I recommend The Sun Does Shine, the autobiography of Anthony Ray Hinton who was sent to Alabama’s death row in 1985 for two murders he didn’t commit. It’s an extraordinary story of rising above hate and stoically serving as an inspiration for others. Here’s my full review.
I’m currently reading Dave Itzkoff’s revealing biography of Robin Williams, which will be released on May 15. It’s a compelling book and I’ll post a full review soon. Reading about the talented comedian made me want to rewatch some of his films. Below is a list Williams movies currently available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu streaming services. Of course many others are available for rental, but this list covers what’s included in the plans most people have.