River Rat
by Michael E. Oppitz

"I did something just now that I never thought I was capable of doing."

Robbie Jasper’s parents plan a family canoe trip down the Rio Grande River as a high school graduation present for their son. Robbie’s father is a distant, workaholic parent, and his mother is overbearing and materialistic. The canoe trip is an opportunity for them to make amends before sending Robbie off to college and into the future they have planned for him. But when the unpredictable waters of the Rio Grande intervene, Robbie’s life is changed forever. He is the lone survivor when their trip goes awry, but in the aftermath, Robbie finds his true calling on the river.

The evolution of Robbie from frustrated teenager to resourceful and determined river guide is effectively rendered in this outdoor adventure novel. Oppitz captures the angst of adolescence on the cusp of independence and explores the joy of finding true purpose in life. More than a character study, though, Oppitz also delivers pulse-pounding thrills on the gushing, swirling rapids of the Rio Grande. With a mix of technical description, natural wonder, and emotional reactions, Oppitz brings the river to life as well as the work of the river guides.

The supporting cast of veteran guides who become like family to Robbie and the corporate executives who book trips on the river all contribute to the realism of business on the river. Adding to the authenticity is the inclusion of rich descriptive and historical details about the Rio Grande and Big Bend National Park. These facts are often dispensed by the guide when the river slows, and the scenery calms to quiet, but the guide is always reminding riders of the danger ahead. The inherent risk of the raging rapids will keep you turning the pages despite the foreboding, unnerving feeling that all might be swept away in one rush of the river.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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