Top positive review
This wild ride will have you white-knuckled from start to finish
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 14, 2018
HOLY HELL! Reading this book was like climbing into a roller coaster at the top of a precipice and being flung fast and deep into dark, unknown territory with no idea where you’re headed, how many hairpin turns, gut-churning dips, or dizzying heights must be endured before the end of the ride, at which point you may, or may not, find yourself a survivor.
In other words: It’s one hell of a terrifying, can’t-put-it-down, heart-pounding read.
I’ve read other books of Jenny Milchman and always enjoy her take on the more nail-biting aspects of human interaction, her way of creating prosaic characters we care about and want to do well, be happy, and stay alive, only to throw them into harrowing circumstances beyond their control which require their wits and wile to overcome. She makes being terrified a thrilling literary experience! ☺
Wicked River is a particularly interesting genre you might call a “love story thriller,” in that it involves a newly-wedded couple who, we come to learn, have decided to make their honeymoon a week-long trek through the great, looming Adirondacks. Wife, Natalie, is game—if wary—but husband Doug is all in. When events and certain characters at the wedding portend the involvement of chicanery along the way, we are instantly suspicious, which, it turns out, we have every right to be.
Of course, the kicker is that we know from the book’s onset that trouble lies ahead for our happily married pair no matter what their reason for hiking. The book’s opening chapter, “One Year Before,” throws us immediately into mayhem when a hiker is terrorized by a mysterious and clearly homicidal forest dweller who is, by chapter’s end, still IN that forest… the same one Nat and Doug will be hiking. Knowing this horrific information before our intrepid protagonists do gets anxiety and dread percolating, chemistry that’s not allowed to abate before the concluding chapter. Hang onto your hats, as my Dad used to say!
Still, and even in the midst of the chaos, there is an emotional, even analytical, exploration of what comprises a relationship; how we pick who we fall in love with, what marriage means, and how we too often leap before knowing all we should. There is a familial backstory (not as compelling as the rest) that offers some foundation to Natalie’s rush into what she hopes will be wedded bliss, which led me, at times, to hope she’d reject the man who unwittingly puts her life in danger. But even the love story comes with complexities and nuances to digest, making its juxtaposition against the true terror of the circumstances both moving and hopeful.
Milchman clearly knows the ins-and-outs of wilderness hiking (which she alludes to in her author’s note), which is evident in the rich detail and sensorial immersion we experience along with her characters. Add “cautionary tale” to the list of book descriptives, in that whether you do (or do not) ever want to set foot in a forest again, you’ve been warned to be wise about both preparations and candor!
A great page-turning, white knuckle read with some deeper themes that never distract from the adrenaline rush of this fantastic thriller. A high recommend.