The Guide

The Guide – Peter Heller

The Guide follows Jack, a ranch hand who had recently taken a job at a reclusive fishing resort in the mountains of Colorado, safe from the viruses that have ravaged the world.  His job is to guide the rich and famous along a river that spans a good mile and a half of rough terrain.  For his first client, Jack is paired with Alison K., a well-known Americana musician from the hills of North Carolina.  On their first day together, Jack and Alison accidentally wander past the property line into neighboring territory and Jack receives a warning shot for his actions.  Outraged, Jack begins investigating the owner of the adjacent property and begins to notice strange things happening around the resort.  Is there more to this retreat than he was told?

I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This is my second experience with Peter Heller.  A few years ago, I had picked up and read Heller’s The Dog Stars (one of my first ARCs, I believe) and absolutely loved it.  For whatever reason, I’ve yet to check out any of Heller’s subsequent novels until now.  It should be worth noting that the character of Jack that appears in The Guide is from Heller’s previous novel, The River.  While I wish I had known that going in, I don’t believe The River is required reading to enjoy The Guide – although I will absolutely go back and check it out.

Heller has a wealth of experience as a travel and adventure writer, so it’s not surprising that he writes about nature in a way that makes you long to be out in the wilderness.  Given where this novel ends up though, it may not be somewhere you’ll envy before long.  Like the river they fish, there are many twists and turns along the way.  This story goes to some truly insane places that while they may seem outlandish, are completely plausible in what will become our post-COVID world.  While it’s true that we often underestimate humanity’s capacity for good, we often shelter ourselves from acts of selfishness and horror.

The true strength of The Guide is Heller’s exceptional connection to the outdoors and how he lovingly crafts the world which his characters inhabit.  The relationship that fosters between Jack and Alison led to some wonderful back and forth between the two that I could have used more of, but given the brisk pace of the story, it just wasn’t possible.  I think the ending and the reveal of the novel’s central mystery will likely stick with me, but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing as I still can’t decide whether or not I liked it.  I had an enjoyable time getting there, though.  I suppose that’s just like fishing – it’s not the catching of the fish that you often desire, it’s the time spent on the water.

The Guide wades into stores on August 24, 2021

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