• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of The Guide by Peter Heller

I love Heller's quiet moments as his characters reflect, and I preferred that aspect of this book--which features a main character from The River--to the mystery element.

The Guide is a literary thriller by one of my favorite authors, in which Jack (from Heller's book The River) is a guide at an elite fishing lodge in Colorado. After suffering a great loss in The River, Jack is eager to lose himself in nature and meet the needs of the boutique resort's clients.

When he's set up as the guide for a famous musician, he baits her line, carries her gear, and sets her up for a successful fishing trip. But Jack is starting to realize that something dark and dangerous may be at work at this lodge, and that things are more complicated than they had seemed.

Heller explores a disturbingly dark side of wealth and abused privilege--with global repercussions. In The Guide, the main protagonist Jack is as linked to the natural world as are the characters in his other books, but for the villains, the outdoors serve primarily as a cover for nefarious plots and machinations meant to expand their considerable power.

In The Guide, the character of Jack is coping with the aftermath of major tragedies in his life (which occurred in The River), reflecting on his own potential culpability, and wondering how to move forward with his life. But despite the page time we spent with him in The River--when I felt a deeper connection to the character--I didn't feel like I gained significant understanding or dug into Jack's reflections in this book. I was glad to revisit the character of Jack. Yet we didn't really need the character in this book to be Jack in order for the story to work.

I'd be happy to read about Heller's characters just walking around in the wilderness, thinking their thoughts. I just love the descriptions, the character growth, and the insight Heller provides in those moments--and that was what I most enjoyed in The Guide.

But when things began unraveling in the story, I felt as though the tone of the book shifted abruptly into a dramatic, action-packed section that seemed straight out of a movie. I was also unclear in the very last scene of the book about the seeming surprise of a character's reaction. It's a minor point, but it didn't make sense to me and left me distracted at the end.

I received an advance digital copy of this title courtesy of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group and NetGalley.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

I love Peter Heller's books, including his thrilling, character-driven story The River, the meditative yet decisively action-oriented The Painter, and his post-apocalyptic story The Dog Stars, which was a five-star read for me.