Read One, Skip One: The River and The Current

The Current and The River


This pairing of Read One, Skip One is appropriate because both books involve river-related disasters, but I much preferred one book over the other!

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Read This One

The Current by Tim JohnstonThe Currentby Tim Johnston
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Release Date: January 22, 2019)
352 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Algonquin)

Plot Summary: When two college girls end up in the icy Black Root River on their way to Minnesota, a small town is taken back to another young girl’s death in the same river a decade earlier.

My Thoughts: Even though I DNF’d Johnston’s last novel (Descent), I finally decided to try The Current after Susie at Novel Visits and Meredith from the Currently Reading podcast loved it and described it as a literary mystery (a genre I normally love). And, I think their categorization is spot on. It feels like a suspenseful small-town story (especially in the first half)…not a thriller. Though the beginning is a slow burn, I was immediately drawn in and wanted to find out how these two river tragedies a decade apart would connect. And, the second half really takes off. It feels more like a mystery and I couldn’t put it down. My one complaint (and what kept it from being a 5 star book for me) is that the story jumps around in time and perspective with absolutely no warning. The perspective and/or time period could change within a chapter and with no heading to alert the reader. I think more chapter breaks and timeline / perspective headings would have been helpful. Still, I’ll be adding The Current would make a great beach read!

“A man doesn’t really ever know himself, Ed,” he said. “He thinks he does, but he doesn’t. There’s something in him that goes deeper than anything in his raising or his beliefs or his badge or whatever the hell he lives by. And once he reaches that place, well. Right and wrong are just words.”

Skip This One

The River by Peter HellerThe River by Peter Heller 
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: March 5, 2019)
272 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Knopf)

Plot Summary: Best friends Jack and Wynn face multiple threats on a canoe trip along the Maskwa River in Canada.

My Thoughts: The River came highly recommended by Anne Bogel (it’s a minimalist pick for her 2019 Summer Reading Guide), Susie at Novel Visits, and Tina at TBR, etc. Unfortunately, I got bogged down in the camping and wilderness details (so much jargon!) and a slow start…and put it down at 23%. But, I was convinced to pick it back up and the pace definitely picked up after that point as the boys try to outrun a massive wildfire and get entangled with some dangerous people (the thriller-style elements). But, the camping details didn’t let up, I had trouble connecting with the characters (I frequently got Jack and Wynn mixed up), and it got “huh?” philosophical at times. I did finish it because I wanted to know if the boys would make it out alive, but it was only 3 stars for me.

There is no place I’d rather be, he thought. And also: Something is not right. He could feel it on the back of his neck, almost the way the hair prickles and rises just before a lightning storm in the Never Summers back home.

Have you read either of these two books? What did you think?

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The Current and The River


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  1. Calling The Current a literary mystery doesn’t tempt me since that’s what I’ve heard Where the Crawdads Sing called and it wasn’t my cup of tea.

    Posted 8.29.19 Reply
  2. Oh, no! I’m going to have to differ with you on this one. If I could only recommend one of these books, I’d pick The River. I really liked The Current, but it won’t be in the running for a top ten book for me this year and The River definitely is.

    Here’s the big difference though: I listened to The River. I’m firmly convinced that listening to a book is a completely different experience than reading it. Some of the issues you had with The River, I may have also had if I’d been reading it. But listening, the narration was so strong and the story so viviid that I felt like I was right there on the river with Wynn and Jack. The River has been one of my most recommended books this year!

    Posted 8.29.19 Reply
    • Katie wrote:

      I did the opposite of Susie! I listened to The Current and read The River. I liked them both but The River really drew me in.
      I often felt disoriented at the start of new chapters in The Current because I wasn’t sure which characters were talking and when. Interesting that the print version had similar issues.

      Posted 8.29.19 Reply
  3. Tina wrote:

    I’m with Susie!! I listened to most of The River and that helped. The camping details glossed right over me. I think the narration also helped me differentiate between Wynn and Jack.

    Posted 8.29.19 Reply
  4. Mel wrote:

    I read The River and also gave it 3 stars. I completely agree with your assessment and wish I’d read your review first so I wouldn’t have read the book (or at least would have dnf’d it)! Interesting that the commenters who listened to the book liked it much better.

    Posted 8.29.19 Reply
  5. Catherine wrote:

    Wow. This one strains our twinness to the limit- I was the exact opposite. I adored The River and did not like The Current all.

    Posted 8.29.19 Reply
  6. Ooh. Now I am even more intrigued by The River. Anne Bogel talked about it when she was on our show too. Maybe I should do it on audio.

    Posted 8.29.19 Reply
  7. Rory wrote:

    I absolutely adored The River (it’ll definitely be among this year’s favorites), and have yet to pick up The Current, but I like his debut, so I probably will. I am a nature lover (including camping and water), so I’m sure that helps.

    Posted 8.29.19 Reply
  8. Deb wrote:

    I’m pretty sure you have these backward. I could barely finish The Current. Loved The River.

    Posted 8.29.19 Reply
  9. Beth F wrote:

    The River! Love Peter Heller.

    Posted 8.30.19 Reply
  10. Judy wrote:

    DNF’d The Current…sort of liked The River…have tried The Descent several times and just couldn’t stick with it.

    Posted 8.30.19 Reply
  11. Cori wrote:

    Ironically, we are in complete disagreement. The River was one of my top reads for the year. The Current was just okay and a bit slow for me

    Posted 9.2.19 Reply
  12. I couldn’t connect with “The River” either. I was happy when you said you kept getting the 2 main characters mixed up–Me Too! And I didn’t care about either of those characters. I think I gave it 3 stars, but ‘for me’, I should have given it 2.

    Posted 9.3.19 Reply
  13. Elaine Sargent wrote:

    I haven’t read The Current but I was so happy to see you agreed with me on The River. It was a DNF for me!

    Posted 9.3.19 Reply
    • Darlene @ lostinliterature wrote:

      I read The River. I also got frustrated with the wilderness speak, but once I got used to it, I loved it. I even wept.

      Posted 9.3.19 Reply
      • Darlene wrote:

        Also, I loaned my copy out, and it came back not so pretty and shiny.

        Posted 9.3.19 Reply
  14. Christie wrote:

    Loved the river. It it rich in a way that strictly plot driven books are not. So much life and tension in it. So happy to finally read weighty fiction again. I think I need to stop reaching for the shiny and new.

    Posted 9.5.19 Reply
  15. Elisabeth wrote:

    I’m so glad to read this! I’ve had The River on my list ever since I heard Anne Bogel rave about it. Meh. That’s all I’ve got. I’m an outdoors girl from Wyoming too. I thought it would totally be my cup of tea, but left me scratching my head as to why anyone even liked it??? So glad to find your review!

    Posted 1.25.20 Reply
  16. Toni wrote:

    I loved both of these books, almost equally. I gave them both 5 stars, though on reflection, I now think that The River got pretty unrealistic (with respect to outrunning the wildfire), but it’s fiction, so I give it the benefit of the doubt. I was motivated to read The River because I’d been to a Peter Heller reading (of his previous book) and liked him so much. I read The Current after hearing Meredith on Currently Reading, and was not disappointed!

    Posted 2.18.20 Reply

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