Thursday, January 23, 2014

Book Review: "The Wind is Not a River" by Brian Payton

1943. The world is deep in the grip of World War II, and there are fears that the war may never end, that it might turn out to be another Hundred Years' War.

John Easley is a journalist, deeply in love with his young wife, Helen. Yet when his younger brother is killed in the war, he struggles with his grief and his desire to ensure his brother's death wasn't in vain. He is determined to tell the U.S. a story of the war, particularly the Japanese occupation of the Aleutian Islands, which no one seems to know anything about, and reporters are sent away by the government.

"Action, he says, is the only language fit for love."

Against Helen's wishes, after a brutal argument, John decides to head back to the Aleutians and find out just what is going on. Hiding his true identity, he travels with a crew on a bombing run, when his plane is shot down over the remote island of Attu. Forced to face the harshest of elements and hide from Japanese soldiers, John must figure out how to survive to tell the story he needs to, and honor his brother's memory and the memory of those whose lives were lost in the war. And at the same time, he ponders his love for Helen, and their marriage, deeply affected by his inability to share his grief with her.

Meanwhile, back in Seattle, Helen is devastated by John's departure. While she tries to occupy her time caring for her elderly father, who suffered a stroke, she is desperate to find out where John is, and if he is okay. Yet the more she tries to find out where John has gone, or if he is okay, the more roadblocks she finds in her way. So she decides to do the only thing she can—try to find her way to the Aleutians, so she can find John and bring him back.

"Helen does not know how she is going to find him. She knows only that she must go there to do it."

Helen uses every trick she can to get into Alaska. She, too, must hide her true identity to get there, and put her own safety at risk. She also must leave her father, uncertain whether she will ever see him again. But for her, the only thought is finding her husband and bringing him home.

This is a tremendously compelling, beautifully written story about love, courage, determination, and finding the will to survive. It's amazing that for the majority of the book, John and Helen aren't together, except in reminiscences, yet their love story is so powerful. Brian Payton tells an excellent story, and this is a part of World War II I had no idea about. I felt drawn into the characters' struggles and emotions.

It's interesting—so many movies are made from adaptations of books. I think this could be a beautiful movie, as long as it didn't lose the poetry of Payton's words. I really enjoyed this one.

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