Wind Is Not a River PB 3D




Chicago Tribune


New York Times


USA Today


Seattle Times


Daily Mail (UK)


Vancouver Sun


An American Booksellers Association IndieNext “Great Reads” Pick

An American Library Association “Library Reads” Pick

An Amazon Book of the Month

BookPage’s Top Fiction Pick for Jan. 2014

An Amazon Canada Editors’ Pick for Best Fiction of the Year

A BookPage Best Book of the Year

A Seattle Times Best Book of the Year


The Wind Is Not a River is Brian Payton’s unforgettable tale of survival 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.


“Top-notch… Payton has delivered a richly detailed, vividly resonant chronicle of war’s effect on ordinary people’s lives.”

Publishers Weekly


“Beautifully written, lyrical and elegiac, The Wind Is Not A River is a novel you must read, because the battle for the Aleutians too often has been erased or forgotten and because 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.”

—David Vann, international bestselling author of Goat Mountain and Legend of a Suicide


“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.”

—Wayne Grady, author of Emancipation Day


“Brian Payton’s remarkable novel is a tightly wound double helix: the gripping tale of a man struggling to save his own life entwined with the heart-rending tale of a woman struggling to save her marriage. As both love story and war story, it is a revelation.”

—Julia Glass, National Book Award-winning author of Three Junes and The Widower’s Tale


The Wind Is Not a River is a harrowing, beautiful book. On the bookshelf of World War II novels, Payton’s can sit confidently beside Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead.”

—David Macfarlane, author of Summer Gone and The Figures of Beauty


“What a great-hearted, beautifully written, and utterly riveting novel. The Wind Is Not a River has a power that brings to mind the old Greek stories of war, love, and journey.”

—Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena and Nothing Gold Can Stay


The Wind is not a River vibrates with the cross-currents of accident and survival in the face of impossible odds, and in the face of warfare’s chaotic indifference. Payton etches an incredible and mesmerizing tale of loss and connection, love and determination. This novel singes the seams of history, strips it down to the bare, forked elements of faith and faithfulness.”

—Aritha van Herk, author of Restlessness and Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta


The Wind is Not a River is a gripping tale of one man’s battle to survive the physical elements, the tides of war, and terrifying isolation. Brian Payton gives us a compelling look at how primal, how essential, the links between lovers become when everything else is stripped away.”

—Natalee Caple, author of Calamity’s Wake


“Part adventure tale, part love story, this beautifully written novel offers a moving portrait of a couple whose lives are forever changed by the only battle of WWII to take place on American soil… 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.”



“Brian Payton’s The Wind Is Not a River is both ethereal and entrancing: once inside John Easley’s head, escape is neither easy nor safe. This book shows all too well the way isolation chews through civilization and leaves only bones.”

—Russell Wangersky, author of Whirl Away and The Glass Harmonica


“Payton knows how the brutality and horror of war scar the human spirit and the power and tenderness of love sustain it. In this lyric and deeply moving novel, he connects the two with imagination and brio. The Wind Is Not a River is a heart-stopping, heart-rending read.”

—Ellen Feldman, Orange Prize shortlisted author of Scotsboro and The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank


(starred review) “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 of Alaska know 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 winds.’ Bravo!”

—Jane Henriksen Baird, Library Journal


An Amazon Best Book of the Month. “Ambitious… Like all great novels, The Wind Is Not a River …is many things at once: a mystery, a war story, a love story, and, at its core, a tale of survival.”

—Neal Thompson, Amazon


“(An) engrossing, satisfying novel about surviving solitude, war, and love.”

—Gail Perry, Winnipeg Free Press


BookPage Top Fiction Pick for January. “Set against a meticulously described Alaskan setting, each harrowing or quietly painful minute is portrayed in realistic detail… Miraculous and heartbreaking… The book arcs poetically across the distance between Helen and John, drawing out the separation that they (and the reader) can hardly bear.”

—Melissa Brown, BookPage


“A beautiful, heart-inspiring and heart-wrenching tale of love, forgiveness, loneliness, the strength of the human spirit… These are not the stories we heard from our parents, but they are believable nonetheless.”

—Lorinda Hayes, Pittsburg Post-Gazette


“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.”

—Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY


“Exquisite… Impeccably researched and sensitively written… I would read anything Payton writes about landscape.”

—Beth Kephart, Chicago Tribune


“A beautifully written love story and an engrossing adventure… Payton is a strong emerging talent… The Wind is Not a River will have readers rooting for the lovers, even as it moves them to tears.”

—Laura Eggertson, Toronto Star


“Powerful… You can hardly ask for a more gripping novelistic scenario. The Aleutian landscape itself functions as the novel’s vital principle, a presence all the more haunting for its indifference to human life… The interest of the reader never flags, even to the last page.”

—Philip Marchand, The National Post


“Payton seamlessly blends fact and fiction… In his elegant portrayal of the land and poetic descriptions of the fauna and foliage, his deep affection for the area and its history shows.”

—Alexis Burling, The Oregonian


“Powerful… part epic war story, part love story… Combining these his-and-her stories of mettle, juxtaposing constancy with adaptive flux, Payton emerges with a metaphorical alloy of survival… 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.”

—Barbara Lloyd McMichael, The Seattle Times


“The Wind Is Not a River seeks reparation from history by giving light to a ‘forgotten battle’… There’s an immediacy to Payton’s story and his endeavour to reveal this period of wartime censorship, and it resonates beyond the confines of historical fiction.”

—Safa Jinje, The Globe and Mail


“Masterful… a gripping novel to be cherished and passed on to anyone who appreciates fine writing.”

—Diane Weddington,


“Easley takes a big risk, but Payton takes even bigger ones throughout this thoughtful, meticulously observed novel. Then Payton raises the creative stakes even higher. . . Payton is merciless with his readers — he brings Helen and Easley tantalizingly close, again and again, only to have them miss — but quite tender with his characters. ‘Some men,’ Easley muses, staring at the bleak, gray Aleutian horizon, ‘have the great misfortune to stand at life’s continental divide and see that the land beyond is barren. There is no hope of turning back. What does one do with this view?’ The answer comes soon enough. Some men — Easley — do find reason for hope, and still others — author Payton now chief among them — find enormous if shattering beauty in the forbidding view the Aleutians afford.”

—Liam Callanan, Washington Independent Review of Books


“In his gripping, meditative second novel, Brian Payton explores (a) nearly forgotten chapter of American history… The borders between ingenuity and insanity, honor and murder, all blur as Easley comes face to face with the darkest parts of human nature… As the story opens out from Easley’s desperate struggle for survival, Payton’s larger theme emerges: People do what they have to do to survive, but what do they survive for? An act of kindness may be rewarded with death; inside every victory lies defeat. Sometimes circumstances force us to reimagine who we are and what we’re capable of doing.”

—Sarah Ferguson, The New York Times


“This is sweeping epic romance, war-torn drama. Think Cold Mountain, think English Patient… Only we’re in the Second World War, and we’re in a theatre of war not only did I know nothing about, I didn’t even know existed: the Alaskan front… Brilliant… man vs. nature, beautiful descriptions of this wild, untamed landscape… poignant musings about the impact of war. Not just the loss of life, but the unquantifiable loss of the future that you should have had.”

—Samantha Buckley, BBC Radio 2


“The perfect storm of a wartime love story… written with beautiful clarity and feeling.”

—Kate Sanders, The Times (UK)


“Brian Payton weaves a rich and evocative tale of life and death, love and faith, determination and resilience… Heartbreaking and yet inspirational in its moving depiction of the indomitable nature of the human spirit, The Wind Is Not a River explores how war impacts on ordinary people and the extraordinary sacrifices they are prepared to make. Using spare prose and understated pathos, Payton conveys the brutality, isolation and suffering of war whilst delivering a memorable romance and a thrilling, action-packed adventure. This is an emotionally powerful and resonant story packed with painstaking research, a fascinating slice of little-known American history and an intimate portrait of how people cope under intolerable pressure… and how far they will go for love.”

—Pam Norfolk, The Visitor (UK)


“Rich in emotion, this war novel is a tale of enduring love.”



“Payton’s second novel is finally out, and it has been well worth the wait — not only because it is extremely well written, but also because of the compelling and surprising story it tells… The Wind is Not a River is a powerful, engaging book… Throughout, Payton’s writing is exceptional: lyrical in its descriptions of beauty or memories of a better time, and hauntingly stark in its depictions of the horrors of war. It is both a war story that condemns war and a love story that shows how love may be the only thing that can redeem the terrible consequences of war.”

—Joe Wiebe, Vancouver Sun


“An intense personal drama… (a) harrowing struggle for survival… A breathtaking evocation of landscape coupled with a compassionate exploration of the human heart.”

—Fanny Blake, The Daily Mail (UK)


“A beautifully written love story of sacrifice and devotion combined with an adventure story set in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands—the location of the only WWII battle on American soil. A heart-stopping read .”

My Weekly (UK)


“Vivid… a twisting tale of survival, sacrifice, and war. This evocative novel is a deeply moving read which commands your full attention.”

Press Association (UK)


“A classic wartime narrative that’s deeply personal and masterfully crafted.”

—Julie Hale, BookPage


“Superb fiction… deeply moving… carefully researched and beautifully written…The Wind is Not a River is, at once, a war story, a love story, a survival story and a meditation on what it is to be human in desperate times.”

—Nancy Lord, Alaska Dispatch News




The Wind Is Not a River

is published by

Ecco/HarperCollins USA


Mantle/Pan Macmillan UK

Globo Brazil

Umbriel/Urano Spain

Piemme Italy

Shibsted Norway