The River (Paulsen novel)

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The River
Paulsen - The River Coverart.jpg
AuthorGary Paulsen
CountryUnited States
SeriesBrian's Saga
PublisherBradbury Press/Dell Publishing
Publication date
June 1999
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)
Preceded byHatchet
Followed byBrian's Winter

The River, also known as The Return[1] and Hatchet: The Return[2], is a 1991 young adult novel by Gary Paulsen. It is the second installment in the Hatchet series, but chronologically the third with Brian's Winter serving as an alternative second book.


Brian Robeson, a 15-year-old boy who spent 54 days surviving alone in the Canadian wilderness the previous summer, is hired by the government to again live in the woods with only two knives and surviving only by his wits, so the military can learn his survival techniques. Though reluctant at first, Brian eventually agrees. This time, Brian sets out for a remote Canadian location accompanied by Derek Holtzer, a government psychologist.

Though the government stipulated the duo take emergency supplies, Brian insists they abandon everything but a knife and an emergency radio, saying that it would be impossible to eat bugs and sleep in the rain if a tent and prepared food is within reach. During their stay, things take a grim turn when their camp is struck by lightning, which knocks Derek into a coma and destroys the radio. Knowing that Derek will die of dehydration long before anyone finds them, Brian builds a raft in a desperate bid to navigate down the unknown river to the nearest inhabited point known as Brannock's Trading Post for emergency aid. The biggest problem is the trading post is 100 miles down river. Despite rapids, the craft's unwieldiness, exhaustion, and a lack of geographical knowledge, they finally reach the trading post and Derek survives. After the two get back home, Derek buys Brian a canoe named The Raft as a thank you present.


  1. ^ Gary Paulsen (February 6, 1976). "The River". p. 150.