War Wounds

redstar Payton, Brian. The Wind Is Not a River. Ecco. Jan. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780062279972. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062279996. F

Still grieving the loss of his brother who went down with his plane over the English Channel, journalist John Easley, determined to make sense of the war, dons his brother’s uniform and heads to the territory of Alaska where he hopes to document the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands. While John is accompanying a crew on a bombing run, his plane is downed over the island of Attu. He and one other survivor of the crash endure a desperate struggle to survive the cold and hunger while evading patrolling Japanese soldiers. Meanwhile John’s wife, Helen, leaves her ailing father in Seattle and joins a USO show, hoping to make her way to Alaska to search for her husband. 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 Alaska know about 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 the winds.” Bravo! [See Prepub Alert, 7/22/13.]—Jane Henriksen Baird, ­Anchorage P.L., AK

redstar Vanderbes, Jennifer. The Secret of Raven Point. Scribner. Feb. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781439167007. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781439167052. F

It’s 1944, and Juliet Dufresne is busy caring for wounded soldiers at a field hospital near Rome. At the same time, she’s hoping to hear news of her brother, a soldier listed as missing in action. Juliet goes about her daily duties tending to her patients as she thinks of the mysterious letter she received from her brother shortly after he disappeared. Everything changes when a wounded soldier from her brother’s platoon serendipitously enters the hospital. Unfortunately, getting answers is more complicated than it seems. VERDICT At first glance, Vanderbes’s (Easter Island; Strangers at the Feast) novel is a touching tale of a sister’s love for her brother, but the underlying themes are much deeper. Readers will fall in love with the delightful Juliet, who is a smart and courageous heroine, and other hospital workers as they form friendships and struggle to accept tragedy and loss while treating their patients’ physical and mental wounds. While not all the mysteries here are resolved, the only disappointing thing about this book is that it has to end. [See Prepub Alert, 8/12/13.]—Vicki Briner, City Coll. Lib., Fort ­Lauderdale, FL