Not many people know about the World War II battle fought on U.S. soil, but Brian Payton draws upon that story in the novel The Wind Is Not a River.
Canadian freelance journalist John Easley is haunted by the death of his brother in Europe and determined to reveal the truth about the war. He sets out to report on the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands, which the War Department denies has occurred. Leaving his wife, Helen, in Seattle, John joins a bombing crew headed to the Alaskan Territory. The plane is shot down, and though he and a young airman named Karl survive, they know they will be presumed dead.
Hiding in a cave on the island of Attu, John and Karl endure cold, wet, starvation and mental anguish, but elude the Japanese. Their camaraderie sustains them, but eventually John is alone. Meanwhile, Helen, overcoming her quiet nature, has earned a part in a USO troupe bound for Alaska, where her grit and wiles take her close to John, though their reunion will be further delayed.
While servicepeople take center stage in most "war novels," as civilians John and Helen Easley exhibit the same heroism and loyalty as their military peers. The story of the innocent Aleutian Island natives caught in the crossfire is another prism through which The Wind Is Not a River reminds readers of the tragedies of war. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller, Book Passage, San Francisco