* CONTAINS SPOILERS
I think I first learned about this book through The Afterword Reading Society (how has this book club become such a big thing in my life?). I was drawn to The Wind Is Not A River because I’m fascinated by survival stories and knew absolutely nothing about the Japanese invading the Aleutian Islands of Alaska or the displacement of the Aleut people.
The story takes place during World War II in Alaska. Following the death of his younger brother and a heated argument with his wife, John Easley takes off to secretly investigate the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands. The U.S. government has kept the invasion under wraps and Easley is determined to inform the public of what is taking place on American soil. However, Easley’s plane is shot down and he becomes stranded on the island of Attu, not far from a Japanese soldier camp. Meanwhile Helen, his wife back in Seattle, can’t get any information about her husband’s whereabouts, but it’s clear he is either missing or dead. Even though she has an ill father, Helen knows nothing is going to happen unless she does it herself. Through a friend, Helen joins a singing troupe for the United Service Organization and finds herself heading north. Now she’s the one on a secret mission. Full of hope and prayers, Helen is determined to find Easley and bring him home.
The Wind Is Not A River is an emotionally stirring story about finding out who you are as a result of adversity. Spending most of the story apart, Easley and Helen are forced to examine who they are, what they have done and what matters most in this fragile life. I liked Easley and Helen for being normal, everyday people you and I would know. No excessive egos or idiosyncrasies to make them stick in your mind, just the story of two people who lost and found one another during the war.
I have nothing bad to say about the book, as it was a truly an enjoyable story.
In addition to the suspense and romance in the story, Brian Payton draws attention to the fairly unknown Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands and plight of the Aleut. He interweaves the confusion, sadness and horror of war without interfering with Easley and Helen’s story. I particularly enjoyed following Helen’s journey, as she summoned all of her inner strength and courage to go way out of her comfort zone to find Easley. She was a very admirable character in a very admirable book.