Picks and Pans Review: Finding Renewal on the River

updated 07/20/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/20/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Elisabeth Hyde |

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We've all experienced it: the sudden, particular intimacy that comes with forced togetherness—in a camp cabin, on jury duty or, as in Hyde's engaging fifth novel, on a two-week rafting trip down the Colorado River. (Add some danger, like class 10 rapids, and the bonds tighten fast.) With little in common but their desire to go briefly off the grid, Canyon's adventurers find themselves forging unlikely alliances and being altered by them: Amy, the 237-lb. teen, and Peter, the guy on the make; JT, the veteran tour leader and Sam, the troublemaking 12-year-old. Hyde has a keen eye for social dynamics, but she's just as good at keeping the adrenaline pumping. She was inspired to write the book, her afterword indicates, after falling out of the boat on a Grand Canyon excursion, and she expertly evokes the thrill and terror of rapid-running. Hurtling towards the biggest falls of them all, Amy thinks, "The fact that there was no turning back, that they could only go forward—that they were now committed to the run, like it or not—suddenly seemed profound." Don't have the time, money (or stomach) for your own river trip? Read this book instead. It's a bracing ride.

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