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The Wind Is Not a River by Brian Payton
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The Wind Is Not a River

by Brian Payton

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2422847,619 (3.86)20
  1. 00
    The Thousand-Mile War by Brian Garfield (srdr)
    srdr: Excellent non-fiction treatment of WWII in the Aleutians.
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This historical fiction captures events during World War II that were held in great secrecy from the American public: a Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska. A reporter, John Easley, is shot down while traveling with American troops flying over the bleak and inhospitable island chain. He is unable to communicate with the outside world and considered missing-in-action by the military which are not publicly acknowledging any combat involvement with the Japanese near Alaska. This is a situation not passively accepted by his wife. The story follows both Easley's battle for survival and his wife's heroic search. The story is riveting and so true to actual events you may want to read further about the Japanese attempt to invade the US territory of Alaska. The nonfiction book, "The Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians" by Brian Garfield is a great follow-up read.


Karen J. / Marathon County Public Library
Find this book in our library catalog.
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  mcpl.wausau | Sep 25, 2017 |
I enjoy reading books that are set in World War II, and The Wind Is Not A River by Brian Payton had the added enticement of being about the battle for the Aleutian Islands that I knew nothing about previously. This was deliberately kept from the public at the time as the government did not want the people of the Pacific Northwest to know that the Japanese were close to obtaining foothold that would allow them to sweep down upon continental North America from Japan. This is also a survival novel, as one of the main characters has his plane shot down on a Japanese controlled island and is trying to stay hidden and live off the land.

The Wind Is Not a River is also a novel of love and commitment as one character struggles to survive and his wife struggles to find him. John Easley is a freelance journalist, he has come to Alaska both to find meaning in the death of his brother and to report on what is happening even though he had previously be ordered to leave. He and his wife argued before he left for Alaska and this haunts both of them. Helen, the wife, decides that she must find her husband and bring him home. And unfortunately I found this part of the story quite improbable and it raised so many questions that I found the momentum of the story suffered.

The author writes beautifully and most of this novel held me spellbound, but the awkward sub-plot and a weak ending caused me to feel a lack of connection to both the characters and the story. I so wanted to love The Wind Is Not A River as it did keep me enthralled most of the way through but I just couldn’t quiet that nagging voice inside that had unanswered questions. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Sep 11, 2017 |
THE WIND IS NOT A RIVER is a perfect combination of fact and fiction. While presenting actual “events [that] are forgotten footnotes in the history of the Second World War,” Brian Payton tells a story of two people who might have been caught up in them.

In this excellent, unputdownable novel, John Easley is a journalist who was in the Territory of Alaska when the Japanese bombed a naval base and an army base on islands there. Although the U.S. government orders all press corps out of Alaska, ensuring that civilians are mostly unaware that the war has come to the U.S., John feels they have a right to know and it is his duty to sneak his way back in. On his third try, he gets in and then accompanies an aircrew running sorties over the Japanese-occupied village of Attu. The plane crashes. What a mix of fact and fiction!

THE WIND IS NOT A RIVER continues to mix fact with fiction as it tells, in alternating chapters, the stories of John’s survival while he evades enemy detection and of his wife Helen’s determination to find him.

This book truly grabbed me. Wherever I went, whatever I was doing, THE WIND IS NOT A RIVER was with me until I finished reading it. I not only enjoyed John’s and Helen’s stories; I also learned of this attack on the U.S. that the government mostly succeeded in keeping quiet.

This novel gets my highest rating. I didn’t want it to end so read the Acknowledgments and the Author’s Note to put it off. ( )
  techeditor | May 8, 2017 |
The Wind Is Not A River - Brian Payton
4 stars

This book is based on a WWII event that is all but absent from the history books; the Japanese invasion of Alaska. John Easley is a journalist with National Geographic ambitions. He knows Alaska, and despite heavy wartime censoring, he knows that the Japanese have a presence there. When his younger brother becomes a casualty of the war in Europe, Easley leaves his young wife and risks everything in an attempt to report on the Japanese occupation of the Aleutian Islands. Disguised as a Canadian officer, Easley wangles a ride on an American bombing run. When the plane is shot down, it is assumed that there are no survivors. Since Easley’s presence was both unofficial and illegal, his wife has no information at all about her missing husband. The story proceeds on alternating plotlines. As John struggles to survive the cold, starvation, and the Japanese on Attu; Helen Easley battles her loneliness and takes her own extreme measures to find her husband.

This was a very well told story, but it did require me to believe two unlikely, but essential, plot devices. It is possible, but unlikely that a reporter could have contrived to do what John Easley did. It is even less likely that Helen Easley could have pulled enough strings to become attached to the USO troupe that would take her in exactly the direction that she wanted to go; Alaska. Those two fictional elements aside, the rest of the story was culturally and historically accurate. Helen and John Easley seemed like a real couple. They both have fully drawn histories. John has the survivor guilt of an older brother and while Helen feels abandoned by her husband and lacking in confidence to step out of a woman’s traditional role. Like most desert island survival stories, this one captivating. I was just as interested in Helen’s story as she persisted, against the odds, to locate John. Both storylines allowed the author to describe the treatment of the island natives by the Japanese invaders and the United States government. This story wasn’t a fairy tale, and I was glad that it didn’t end like one. The ending was not unduly harsh, but the war was depicted realistically.

I was reading this book while James Foley’s murder was being reported. It had me thinking, a lot, about the risks that come with a free press. I think Brian Payton was also thinking about that as he wrote this book.

“ It seems so long that Easley returned to these islands to bear witness and report. The writer’s vainglorious belief that he can somehow make sense of the world by capturing events, rendering them down to words on a page. Easley never really accounted for the possibility that this place, these events, would rewrite his own life so utterly.”
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  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
I love when an author can shed light on a little known corner of history. That is exactly what Brian Payton has done here. Following the death of his younger brother over the North Sea, John Easely is determined to make a difference. Few know about the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian islands, it is certainly not discussed in any of the history books I have read. As a reporter for National Geographic, Easely was there when it happened. The government is determined to keep the occupation quiet, but Easley sneaks back to the islands, with a plan to tell the American people the truth. He leaves behind his young wife, Helen. Scared and desperate to bring her husband back home, she conceives her own plan to sneak into the Alaskan territory, in an effort to find him.

This book was both a moving story about the lengths we will go for those we love, and a tale of survival in a war torn land. Told in alternating chapters, we are shown Easley's bid for life, hiding in a cave on a island occupied by Japanese soldiers, and Helen's hopeless search for a man that no one knows is missing. I personally found Easley's story to more interesting, but Helen's search provided a nice counterpoint to the darkness and emptiness. I did find myself wishing for more detailed information on the Japanese invasion and what happened to the Aluets, but given how little is known about this part of the war, I am not surprised that it felt lacking. The love story, however was fully fleshed out, and if that is your thing, you are sure to love this book. ( )
  Mootastic1 | Mar 1, 2016 |
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When John Easley opens his eyes to the midday sky his life does not pass before him.
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"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."-- Dust jacket flap.… (more)

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