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The Revenant

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Hugh Glass isn’t afraid to die. He’s done it once already.

Rocky Mountains, 1823. The trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company live a brutal frontier life. Hugh Glass is one of the most respected men in the company, an experienced frontiersman and an expert tracker.But when a scouting mission puts Glass face-to-face with a grizzly bear, he is viciously mauled and not expected to survive. Two men from the company are ordered to remain with him until his inevitable death. But, fearing an imminent attack, they abandon Glass, stripping him of his prized rifle and hatchet.

As Glass watches the men flee, he is driven to survive by one all-consuming desire: revenge. With shocking grit and determination, he sets out on a three-thousand-mile journey across the harsh American frontier, to seek revenge on the men who betrayed him.

The Revenant is a remarkable tale of obsession and the lengths that one man will go to for retribution.

The novel that inspired the epic new movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy.

262 pages, Hardcover

First published June 20, 2002

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About the author

Michael Punke

12 books524 followers
Michael Punke is a writer, novelist, professor, policy analyst, policy consultant, attorney and currently the Deputy United States Trade Representative and US Ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. He is best known for writing The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge (2002), which was adapted into film as The Revenant (2015), directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, with a screenplay by Iñárritu and Mark L. Smith, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,582 reviews
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,867 reviews16.5k followers
March 28, 2019

That was a good western.

Equal parts Larry McMurtry and Jack London with a nod to Cormac McCarthy, writer Michael Punke delivers a riveting tale of survival and revenge.

In the summer of 1823, fur trapper Hugh Glass, an experienced frontiersman, lowers his guard for a moment and in true Jack London fashion, nature demonstrates how unforgiving a mistake can be, as Glass is viciously mauled by a grizzly bear. His compatriots, already behind schedule and in danger from a rogue branch of a native American tribe, leave two trappers behind to bury Glass when he finally dies.

“The goal each day is tomorrow morning.”

But things don’t wind up as tidy as expected and Glass finds himself still alive but alone in the western wilderness without his gun, knife, or implements of survival. What he does have in generous supply is a will to survive and a murderous drive to pour a can of vengeful whoopass on the men who abandoned him.

Punke has selected as his subject an early western tale, closer in time to Natty Bumpo than to Wyatt Earp. The western plains in the early 1800s were a true wilderness, at least two generations before “the west was won”. The western men who thrived in this era were as physically tough and resilient as the natives and it is this primal, atavistic element that is at the heart of his writing. Yet, Punke rises above a formulaic narrative by adding tragi-comic scenes and backstory histories to add depth and humanity to an already good story.

Raw and powerful, Punke’s is a lean, strident prose, bursting out of its 272 pages with a purpose akin to protagonist Hugh Glass’s resolute will to survive and avenge his loss.

Great book

Profile Image for Richard.
984 reviews357 followers
January 12, 2016
While reading this exciting western adventure, I was constantly reminded of how many things we take for granted today. Little things like blankets, lighters, automatic rifles, and those two words that kept running through my mind while reading: ANTI. BIOTICS.


The book is based on the famous true story of Hugh Glass, the frontiersman working as a trapper for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company in 1823 gathering beaver pelts along the Missouri River. Things go south fast when he gets ripped apart by a grizzly bear while hunting. It's almost a sure thing that Glass will croak, so he doesn't take it personally when his colleagues abandon him, but when they steal his beloved knife and rifle, AND his flint and steel? Now that's totally unforgivable! Against all odds, Glass crawls across hundreds of miles of treacherous countryside to bring retribution to those that wronged him.

I'd never heard of the story of Hugh Glass and I'm totally in awe of how much of a badass he was. The story is sometimes hard to believe; I mean damn the dude's throat was nearly severed and he couldn't walk! And with Michael Punke's well-conceived embellishments and dramatics, the story really rises to an even higher level of extraordinary. It's not only a gripping tale of classic revenge, but it's also a story of survival literally against all odds and about the extent that one man's determination can go. It's well-researched and its great sense of place was very transportive. And Punke uses an omniscient POV that's great for historical fiction that really gives the reader more info about the world and more historical scope beyond the immediate story. I was not only entertained but I also learned a lot and I was inspired to jump on the Interwebs and learn even more. And that's what historical fiction is all about, right?
The frustrating necessity of delay was like water on the hot iron of his determination—hardening it, making it unmalleable. He vowed to survive, if for no other reason than to visit vengeance on the men who betrayed him.
Profile Image for Matt.
917 reviews28.2k followers
August 21, 2021
“He heard her size before he saw it. Not just the crack of the thick underbrush that the sow moved aside like short grass, but the growl itself, a sound deep like thunder or a falling tree, a bass that could emanate only through connection with some great mass. The growl crescendoed as she stepped into the clearing, black eyes staring at Glass, head low to the ground as she processed the foreign scent, a scent now mingling with that of her cubs. She faced him head-on, her body coiled and taut like the heavy spring on a buckboard. Glass marveled at the animal’s utter muscularity, the thick stumps of her forelegs folding into massive shoulders, and above all the silvery hump that identified her as a grizzly…”
- Michael Punke, The Revenant

The tale of Hugh Glass’s unfortunate meeting with a grizzly bear is one of the great legends of the Old West. In 1823, the story goes, Glass was a trapper with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. While out alone, he was attacked by a grizzly, mauled so badly that he was expected to die. Because he was slowing down the rest of the trappers, two men were designated to stay with Glass until he expired, and then catch up with the rest of the company.

Instead of staying with Glass, the two men left. And instead of dying, Glass lived.

Crawling, stumbling, walking, riding, and floating, Glass somehow traversed hundreds of miles of unmapped, unforgiving frontier, battling the elements, avoiding unfriendly Indian tribes, and surviving by any means necessary, driven all the while by an insatiable appetite for revenge.

While the broad contours of Glass’s story – that he survived both a bear attack and subsequent abandonment – are generally accepted as true, there is little by way of hard evidence. Though Glass was apparently literate, he did not leave his own account. Most of what we know – or think we know – comes from hearsay, campfire stories passed from one man to the next, the saga growing in the telling, as embellishments and adornments were added and refined.

As Michael Punke clearly recognized, the tenuous factual nature of Glass’s remarkable journey makes it a perfect candidate for novelization. In The Revenant, Punke is able to use the dramatic license of fiction to add meat to the bones of an otherwise skeletal story.

Since its publication in 2002, the reputation of The Revenant has grown, undoubtedly helped by the award-winning movie adaptation of the same name. While certainly a solid read, this is a book that I respected more than I loved.

The Revenant straddles two very different genres, but does so a bit uncomfortably, with the result that it seems to be pulling in opposite directions.

On the one hand, this is very credible historical fiction. Punke has clearly marinated himself in trapper lore, and his evocation of a mountain man’s life feels acutely accurate. The weapons, the equipment, and the clothing are all lovingly detailed. Entire scenes are constructed around a man sewing up a wound, butchering an animal for meat, or constructing a deadfall. The Revenant is at its best when it fully indulges its process-oriented nature. There is something extremely satisfying in Punke simply describing how things were done far from civilization, at the extremities of human endurance.

Punke also has a real knack for physical descriptions of the land. At times, The Revenant is transportive, setting you in a frigid river, a trackless forest, or in the shadow of a gleaming mountain. By sharply etching the geography, Punke gives tactility to Glass’s remarkable journey.

The problem – at least for me – is that The Revenant also wants to be a revenge thriller. This is a very different kind of beast, with its own unique imperatives. A good thriller thrives on indelible characters, intense motivations, the occasional twist and turn, and a powerful ending where all the driving forces collide at once.

The Revenant does not supply these things.

The main deficit is in the characters, all of whom are shallow archetypes. The Revenant revolves around Glass and the two men who abandoned him: Jim Bridger and John Fitzgerald. None leave much of an impression.

Glass is competence personified, but does not have much by way of personality. The only thing that can be said about him is that he seems like an overall decent type, likely to do the “right” thing in any given situation. Unfortunately, this inherent decency makes him a poor choice to shoulder a revenge arc. I never bought his anger, his drive, his bloodthirstiness. Punke gives Glass a lengthy backstory involving pirates and lost love, yet this did nothing to give Glass additional dimensions. Instead, it felt perfunctory. Being told a person is complicated and being shown a person is complicated are two different things. Punke gives us the facts of Glass without any of the feeling.

The same goes for Bridger, who in 1823 was a young, hapless greenhorn, and not yet a famous trapper, hunter, and scout. (There is a minor controversy about whether Bridger was actually one of the two men to abandon Glass, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility). Bridger feels bad for leaving Glass and we are meant to feel that pain. In point of fact, Punke keeps telling us to feel that pain. I – for one – did not. The reason is that Bridger is less a person than plot point. He has no existence apart from the plot-derived necessity of us worrying about whether Glass will kill him.

John Fitzgerald is the heel of the piece. As a villain, however, he is unconvincing. More cowardly than evil, and more pragmatic than wicked, he does not provide a worthy goal for Glass’s retributive quest. (A shortcoming that the movie unsubtly – but effectively – remedied by making Fitzgerald into an outright murderer).

Without characters to truly root for – or hiss at – the vengeance angle becomes quite flat. This flatness is compounded by Punke’s decision to stay extremely close to the historical record, flimsy as it is. Such faithfulness is fine, yet it leaves precious little room for surprises. To be clear: historical fiction does not need – and typically does not have – a last-act bombshell revelation, since real life occurrences do not get a spoiler tag. In The Revenant, though, Punke works overtime trying to squeeze tension out of a situation that simply doesn’t have it. His insistence on attempting to produce a pulpy quest for reprisal while wearing the straight jacket of historical fidelity gives The Revenant a bit of an identity crisis. It might have been better for Punke to choose one or the other, to either throw away the primary sources and make this a blood-spattered chase, or to downplay the revenge stuff in favor of a more mediative journey of a man alone in the wilds.

To be honest, without the film version of The Revenant I never would have read this. Now, having read it, the film will be the only thing to keep me from entirely forgetting it. The Revenant is well-written, well-constructed, and has an admirably authentic aesthetic. At the same time, it lacks both heart and soul, with all its qualities on the surface, and not much underneath.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,133 followers
January 31, 2016
3.5 Stars

This "gritty" adventure tells the story of Hugh Glass and the near death experience of his encounter with a grizzly in the year 1823.

Relieved of all means to protect himself, abandoned and left for dead on the wild frontier amidst Indians and other foe, Hugh uses his knowledge and tracking skills to seek revenge against his vile compatriots.

Enjoyed this exciting novel for the most part and the historical data and background information of the time, but I was a bit disappointed with the somewhat abrupt ending wishing the author would have taken it to its conclusion as noted in his historical note. On the other hand, now that I've read the book, I really can't wait to see the movie! (oh, and great book-cover)

Update: January 27, 2016

Oh boy....quite a few differences in the movie version. The grizzly scene is more violent and longer than the book, and there is a brief non-graphic rape scene that is not in the book, but has much meaning in the movie. Hugh Glass has a Pawnee son in the movie that exacerbates the revenge issue, and the Indian fight seems much more gruesome. Overall, liked the movie better, particularly the ending, although not as true to historic events.

Profile Image for Heidi The Reader.
1,376 reviews1,431 followers
September 24, 2017
The Revenant is a fictional tale based on the real life account of Hugh Glass, a trapper who was attacked by a grizzly bear and then left for dead by the men who had been left to care for him.

This story is so gripping. From the explosive opening moments until the very last page, the reader is practically swept up into the action.

Not only are the men in The Revenant struggling with each other, but Nature herself has a huge role in this survival tale. If the characters aren't freezing, they're starving or looking for a safe place to sleep.

This is a particularly excellent read for a cold winter night with a cup of something hot to drink near your elbow.

This would have been a five star read except for the ridiculously unsatisfying conclusion.

It felt like The Revenant suddenly turned from a survival/adventure/revenge story into a tame morality play.

I realize that it is a morality play the whole time, but with all the action and nail-biting tension, it doesn't "feel" like one until the ending- which I won't ruin for you, except to say that it was very lame.

My husband read a version of this story called Lord Grizzly when he was in college so, while I was into this one, we were comparing notes on the differences between the two works.

Although varying in small details, the major arcs were the same. I felt as if The Revenant did a better job of building the tension than Lord Grizzly but we both agreed that the ending to the story (in both books) was a let-down.

If you enjoyed reading The Revenant, you may enjoy The Knife of Never Letting Go. Though not based on a true story, it shares the traveling-through-the-wilderness feel and tension of this book.

I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads. FTC guidelines: check!
Profile Image for Justin (Look Alive Books).
278 reviews2,258 followers
January 5, 2016
So the book kicks off with Leonardo DiCaprio getting mauled by a bear so that alone may be enough for you to wanna read this book. Actually, it's Hugh Glass who will be portrayed at the local drive-in cineplex moving picture show this week by D-Cap himself who gets stone cold stunnered outta nowhere by the bear. The bear attack will be in the movie. It's crucial to the story. Don't mess around with bears, man.

Did I expect to really enjoy a book set in the early 1800s about fur traders wandering around trading fur and shooting guns and whatnot? No. No, I absolutely did not. In fact, I checked this out from the library because I knew about the movie, and then I let it sit around for a month or so before I picked it up. But, I'll be damned if this ain't one hell of an adventure!

Punke (is it Punk, Punky, Pun-Kay... who knows?) makes you feel like this book was written decades ago. The settings be describes, the characters he develops, the dialogue... it all seems natural and not like he's doing his best to figure out what the setting would be like. He grabbed me by the neck and flung me back two hundred years ago like you would throw a Hot Pocket that you cooked too long in the microwave but didn't realize it until you bit into it and all the hot goo inside leaked out and burned your mouth. In short, the guy did his homework.

And this stuff really happened?! Oh my God! Are you kidding me?! Punk. no way man. Punke, whatever. That's unreal.

I'm not usually a fan of this genre, but I loved the book and I'm excited for the movie. It gets a little too descriptive and slows down just a little at times, but it's a great manly adventure story of survival and revenge.

Great way to kick off the year! Seriously, stay away from bears.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,815 followers
January 28, 2016
This is a dark and gruesome tale of the wild mountain west and the treacherous planes. The key story here is of survival and revenge, tragic heroes and scoundrels, Mountain Men and Natives, truth and fiction.

I am glad that they made a movie of this book, because I am not sure my attention would not have been drawn to it without the hype.

I recommend this book, but only to the strong of stomach!
Profile Image for Jim.
365 reviews90 followers
March 4, 2017
I never had any real interest in reading this book, being already familiar with the story of Hugh Glass. On top of that, I had already seen the horrid yawner of a movie which involved a pathetic DiCaprio wandering shivering over the Canadian countryside (and later describing a Chinook as evidence of our impending doom from global warming). Unfortunately, a co-worker reasoned that, since he had once seen me reading a book, it would necessarily follow that I would want to read anything that had paper sandwiched between two covers. I could tell that he thought he was doing me a great favour, and since I am not one who likes to be untruthful I couldn't just give it back a week later and tell him it was OK. I reluctantly read the darn thing.

Surprisingly, I didn't hate the book. Happily, some screenwriter had obviously taken liberties and totally messed up the movie version, but that's the case for almost every translation of book to film. Punke isn't a bad storyteller, although he tends to lay it on a bit thick with the woodcraft. Tell me that Glass built a bullboat...I don't need to be told how he built it! That can slow the story down quite a bit, although this book didn't suffer terribly as a result. Some actions assigned to Glass were hard to swallow, such as a badly mauled man barely having the use of one of his arms suddenly having the capacity to start a fire with bow and drill, an activity requiring the vigorous use of both arms. And lets not forget the 200 gr charge of powder in the rifle...about twice as much as he would actually be using. Adding more powder doesn't give more range, it just gives you more unburned powder being shoved out of the barrel.

So I didn't hate it. Didn't learn anything from it, but I can give the book back to my co-worker and thank him for loaning it to me. I can tell him it wasn't bad with a clear conscience. And it is much better than the movie, a point I have to emphasize because I could see people dodging the book if they had seen the movie first.

Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,014 reviews363 followers
December 19, 2018
Como este romance foi inspirado numa história real, andei a saltitar por aí, em busca de possíveis fontes. Espantosamente, não dei com duas iguais!
As várias versões que investiguei, tinham um tronco comum, mas divergiam nalgumas ramificações.
Na elaboração desta resenha, pretendo utilizar o mínimo de spoilers possível. Assim, irei socorrer-me da versão que me pareceu mais plausível, que poderá ou não, ser aquela que mais se aproxima do livro.
Deixo assim a dúvida no ar, tendo em vista minorar o inconveniente dos eventuais spoilers introduzidos!...

Posto isto, resta-me então começar:

Carrascos ou Salvadores

Hugh Glass, um batedor e explorador americano que viveu no século XIX, foi atacado e gravemente ferido por um urso, durante uma expedição.
Tendo perdido autonomia -- o urso deixara-o num estado moribundo -- tornara-se um empecilho para os seus companheiros.
Abatê-lo seria uma solução prática e relativamente plausível!...
Mas não!... Não foram por aí!... A ética providenciou-lhe um caminho mais nobre:
Foram destacados dois homens, com a missão de lhe proporcionarem algum conforto durante aqueles que supostamente seriam os seus momentos terminais.
Só depois de o enterrarem dignamente é que poderiam finalmente partir, juntando-se aos restantes membros da expedição.

Porém, existiam certas agravantes capazes de se soprepôr à honra:
Estava-se em território índio, onde o homem branco era o invasor indesejado. Dois homens e um moribundo seriam alvos fáceis para as tribos índias que patrulhavam assiduamente o território. Assim, estando Glass à partida condenado, a atitude mais segura seria abandoná-lo para melhor salvar a pele!
E assim foi -- apoderaram-se das poucas armas e parcos pertences de Glass, semi enterraram-no numa cova aberta, e puseram-se ao fresco!...

Enfurecido, enraivecido e sedento de vingança, Glass foi-se arrastando e sobrevivendo, auxiliado pela generosidade do Universo, que parece compadecer-se de todos os que se debatem entre a vida e a morte.
Pelo caminho, alimentou-se de restos de cadáveres caçados por animais e encontrou índios amigáveis que lhe trataram das feridas...

O seu objectivo era claro e determinado:
Reencontrar os homens que tão barbaramente o abandonaram e... matá-los!!!

O seu desejo de vingança era tal, que lhe proporcionou uma força descomunal.
Os seus carrascos -- os homens que o abandonaram para morrer -- foram as parteiras duma força salvadora, gerada pela raiva que Glass acumulara contra eles.
Não fora essa atitude desprezível dos seus companheiros, certamente ele teria perecido!...

Se há histórias que ilustram bem o ditado-cliché "Deus escreve certo por linhas tortas", esta é inegavelmente uma delas!
E eu que nem sequer sou crente, fui dar com um livro destes ;)

É um 4+++ para este épico de sobrevivência!
Eu cá vibrei com ele! :)
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,727 reviews6,662 followers
January 24, 2016
The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge is a historical fiction novel themed with survival and of course, revenge. The author Michael Punke incorporated some pretty raw scenes in this story that kept me engaged and on the edge of my seat. There was a parallel and secondary non-wilderness story that I was less than enthusiastic about but all parts were important for the historical component and created a well-rounded tale.

After some research about the nonfictional 19th century main character Hugh Glass, I found that Mr. Punke put his own spin on certain aspects of his documented story. After reading the real-life ending to Hugh Glass's angry journey, I don't blame Mr. Punke for writing some of his own details for readers. However, Hollywood's adaptation is another story. The film may have been inspired by Mr. Punke's novel but it varies significantly in many areas. I enjoyed The Revenant and am glad I read it. As always, I appreciate it when a work of "fiction" leads me to learn more about the real-life journeys of those who came before us.

If you are interested in the historically documented events of Hugh Glass's life, click HERE for an online article titled The True Story Behind The Revenant, as Told in 1939.

My favorite quote:
"He stopped, awestruck. Fusing heaven to earth, the Big Horn Mountains stood before him. A few clouds swirled around the highest peaks, furthering the illusion of a wall reaching forever upward. His eyes watered from the glare of the sun against snow, but he could not look away...His awe of the mountains grew in the days that followed, as the Yellowstone River led him nearer and nearer. Their great mass was a marker, a benchmark fixed against time itself. Others might feel disquiet at the notion of something so much larger than themselves. But for Glass, there was a sense of sacrament that flowed from the mountains like a font, an immortality that made his quotidian pains seem inconsequential."

Note: It turns out the author Michael Punke wears many hats. He is a seasoned writer, the Deputy United States Trade Representative, and the US Ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. His political positions unfortunately prevent him from talking to reporters which has kept him out of the Hollywood spotlight in terms of his novel's success. Who knows, maybe he likes it that way. For an online article that discusses Mr. Punke in further detail, click HERE.
Profile Image for Dianne.
559 reviews906 followers
January 24, 2016
This book of frontier justice is based on a true story and the movie is based on the book.....by the time you get to the movie, the facts have been considerably altered. I can tell you there are at least 2 major differences between the book and the movie, and they're mighty big ones.

I read this because I always like to read the book before I see the movie, so mission accomplished. The book was difficult to stick with but finally picked up in the second half.

I'll report back after I see the movie on which I think was better - it's usually the book, but this time I'm betting on the movie. The book is good, but not as good as I'd hoped for.

A 3.5 for me.

** UPDATE: I finally did see the movie this weekend. The kernel of the story is the same but it has been embellished for dramatic impact and the ending has changed. I feel the same way about the movie that I did about the book - a 3.5. Good performances and beautiful scenery, but didn't love it.
Profile Image for William2.
745 reviews2,959 followers
September 12, 2022
Very vivid, excruciatingly so at times. Based on a true story, this novel is about a man named Hugh Glass who is one among a company of trappers on the Missouri River in the 1820s. Glass has been severely mauled by a grizzly. He is subsequently patched up, but days later is abandoned by his fellows who have carried him three days on a litter. Suffice it to say, he doesn’t take kindly to being left to die alone in the forest primeval.

“What Fitzgerald and Bridger had done was much more than abandonment, much worse. These were not mere passerby on the road in Jericho, looking away and crossing to the other side. Glass felt no entitlement to a Samaritan's care, but he did at least expect that his keepers do no harm.

“Fitzgerald and Bridger had acted deliberately, robbed him of the few possessions he might have used to save himself. And in stealing from him this opportunity, they had killed him. Murdered him, as surely as a knife in the heart or a bullet in the brain. Murdered him, except he would not die. Would not die, he vowed, because he would live to kill his killers.” (p. 94)

The narrative flashes back to events leading up to the abandonment. Paramount here is the idea of how woodsmen read the landscape, its every change of weather, sound, perspective. Moreover, there’s a sense of using the landscape in ways city people wouldn’t know. Much of this feels like hard won Indian knowledge, and it later turns out that Glass had in fact learned his survival skills from a year among the Pawnees. Late in the book, Glass has to outwit a team of Arikawa trackers; the way he goes about it is so meticulous and brilliant rendered.

This is a very good book, heavily dependent on description. But every now and then, rarely, the description fails. One example, when Glass, abandoned and alone, has to gradually, over many pages, progress from crawling to walking. A second example is when the Voyageurs, whom Glass has joined, are under night attack by the Arikawa. In both instances the writing is not supple enough to get the job done; the novelist seems to be demanding more from the language than it ultimately delivers. This is a break in prose that is otherwise seamless and continuous. Think of these as the ‘flaw’ the Navaho intentionally weave into a rug for spiritual purposes.

That said, the scene where it is Hugh Glass against the blizzard will give you frostbite. It’s late December. You may remember stories about men in the Klondike killing and gutting a bear and climbing inside it for the night. This scene is kind of like that but no animals were harmed.

“He retreated quickly to the more sheltered side of the tree. The wind seemed to have settled on a course, but also intensified. His face ached and his hands again lost all dexterity. He ignored his feet, which was easy since he felt no sensation below his ankles. With the more consistent direction of the wind, the cottonwood at least created a windbreak. The temperature continued to drop, though, and without a fire, Glass again thought he would die.

“There was no time to hunt for tinder, even if there had been enough light to see. He decided to cut kindling with his hatchet, then hope that another shot of gunpowder would be enough to start the blaze. For an instant he worried about conserving his powder. Least of my problems. He drove the hatchet into the end of a short log to seat the blade, then pounded up and down to split the wood.

“The sound of his own work almost obscured another sound — a dull clap like distant thunder. He froze, his neck craning in search of the source. A rilfe shot? No too big. Glass had heard thunder before during snowstorms, but never in temperatures this cold.” (p. 199)
Profile Image for NILTON TEIXEIRA.
823 reviews254 followers
December 12, 2021
This book is a work of fiction inspired by real events dated 1823.
It’s based on the real life of Hugh Glass, a trapper and frontiersman for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company.
It’s a story of survival, obsession and revenge.
The story is quite unbelievable, but I enjoyed its development and specially the writing.

As I have watched the 2015 movie adaptation before reading this work, it was easy to see and feel the description of the scenes.

And as I listened to the audiobook simultaneously, I feel that it may also have influenced in my ratings. The storyline is very slow but the narration was very engaging.

The book is not that big. It’s less than 300 pages (depending on the edition) with only 87k words.

The movie was nominated for 11 Oscars, including best picture. It won 3: best director (Alejandro G. Iñárritu), best cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki) and best actor (Leonardo DiCaprio).

I do recommend the audiobook narrated by Holter Graham.
Profile Image for Jessaka.
887 reviews120 followers
December 23, 2018
Great book, one of my friends said as she passed the book on to me. I looked at the title, a story of revenge. This book is not for me, I thought. But then I began reading the first chapters, a book on survival. I like survival stories, and this one is based on a true story of a trapper back in the 1800s that is with a company of men who are out doing their own scouting when he gets mauled by a bear. When his company gets back to him, they find that he is almost dead. He is pieced back together, but then he is left in the care of two men, who are asked to stay with him until he dies and then are asked to bury him. They stay for a while, but then they see that Indians are coming, so they grab all of their belongings, as well as his, and leave him to die or to get scalped, whichever comes first.

The Indians never show up so he lays there with a fever. He sees a rattlesnake eating a rabbit, and then the rattlesnake attacks him over and over again. Ah, a hallucination. I am thinking that I would have died from fright right then, if not from the bear attack. Then he wakes up, sees the rattlesnake is still trying to digest the rabbit and smashes it with a stone and eats it. Then he crawls on his belly to get to the creek for water. Next he is wrapping his knee with a strip of wool blanket that the two men hadn’t stolen from him. He does this because he needs to crawl on it in order to get back to the fort that is 300 miles away.

By now I am thinking that I will just read this book until I learn all of his survival skills, because, well, I don’t know, maybe someday I will be mauled by a bear and need to know how to survive. Or maybe I will need to know how to kill a rattlesnake when I don’t have a rifle in my hands. First and last time I ever had to kill rattlesnake I had a shotgun. First and last time I ever ate a rattlesnake I was at a Texas rattlesnake roundup. All I can tell you is that the meat is tough. If you get old and lose all of your teeth, don’t expect to gum this meat. Won’t happen.

If you can’t tell by now, well, I am not really into this book. The title turned me off. And if it wasn’t for the title, well, the writing wasn’t what I wanted, and well, it had back stories too, and I really wasn’t interested in these men’s lives or what his company was doing after they left him for dead. I was so bored, that I even forgot to put this book up on my current reading list, especially since I wasn’t sure that I would even read it far enough to consider it read or even abandoned. I was so bored that I began reading a fun teenage mystery story, and in between all of this I began reading a great book titled, The Jew Store, a true story about a Jewish family leaving New York for Tennessee and then having to face racism, and I sat there thinking that they picked a horrible place to move to being that they were Jewish and were the only Jewish family in town.

So, today I went back to reading this book. I learned how he fought off a pack of wolves after seeing them hunt down a buffalo calf. He wanted a share of the bounty. I read how he did other things to survive, like make a crutch. Later on when he was able to walk he turned the crutch into a spear and then he walked into a deserted Indian village where he met a blind woman and her dog. He fed her and her dog, but she died the next day, so he put her to rest when a band of Indians showed up and saved the day, all except for the dog’s. I got up off the couch, walked over to the “out” basket, tossed the book in and decided to write this review.
Profile Image for Wayne Barrett.
Author 3 books107 followers
May 29, 2016

Okay! Now that I've read it I can head to the theater tomorrow.

I thought the story was good. Punke admits that he has taken a lot of liberties with the story but all in all he still presented us with most of the basic facts. There are some big gaps in the action but they are filled with what I consider some pretty interesting historical knowledge and that is a subject that I find interesting anyway so the lags didn't bother me too much. Well...maybe a little.
Profile Image for Asghar Abbas.
Author 4 books188 followers
February 17, 2016


I am hesitant to say it's breathtaking, but it's breathtaking.

As brutal as the movie was, the book is more brutal and oddly enough more visceral. Nature and open range were not only an element but a part, an additional character of this book.

And what a foe it was. Yet this was also about folly of men. Kinda reminds me and puts me in mind to recite one of my wordlings from 2013.

Don't be afraid of nature
don't be afraid of men
but be oh so very afraid of nature of men.

Read it.

p.s ; aren't teddy bears supposed to be cuddly and cute? Haha.
Profile Image for Ron.
386 reviews88 followers
February 21, 2016
The Revenant is fascinating story about a man who suffers countless tragedy at the hands of nature and man, and seeks redemption. It’s so compelling because it is based the real life of Hugh Glass. In the afterward, the author Michael Punke explains that many of the moments in his book are in fact fiction. The bulk of the dramatic events surrounding Glass and his fellow trappers are true, and sometimes so horrific you’d believe they were fabricated. He endured within a year what no man should have to experience in a lifetime. I could not imagine going through it.

This book was well worth my time (l listened to the audio version). Because some of the book was difficult to picture, and other parts were just so-so, I feel the movie experience may actually eclipse that of the book. At 272 pages, it’s a quick read. If you’ve thought about reading before seeing the movie, or just to check out the story, I’d say give it a go.
Profile Image for Kavita.
760 reviews370 followers
May 7, 2017
I can't believe I actually enjoyed this book. It was all about fighting and hunting and living in the rough, and not a single woman in the 250 pages. But gosh, it was riveting!

Hugh Glass was a man who lived life on the edge. This was not due to any need or cash crunch. He just liked it, and soon it became the only way he knew how to live. His father wanted him to become a lawyer, but Glass had other plans for his future. In the end, his father relented and allowed him to pursue his dreams. Glass started his career as a sailor. He later became a frontiersman, hunter, scout, and fur trapper.

Glass was kidnapped by pirates, almost killed in a ritual sacrifice by the Pawnee, mauled by a grizzly bear, survived in the inhospitable land with no weapons and injured, escaped in an Arikara ambush ... But he never stopped and continuously stepped from one dangerous assignment to another.

The Revenant is a novel about Glass' confrontation with the grizzly, and then being abandoned by his colleagues. He survived god only knows how, but he did get back to 'civilisation' and tracked down those who had abandoned him.

I would not call this great literature and the author's writing style was sometimes confusing as he switched from one topic to the other. He also often switched back and forth in time, which didn't sit well with me. But Punke somehow managed to keep my interest alive and I don't remember when was the last time I was so fascinated by a biography, fictional though it is. Punke does provide an author's note at the end where he describes the fictional parts.

I really loved this book and will be looking out for the other books by this author. Hugh Glass is fascinating and I really admire his spunk and his perseverance. But if you asked me, I'd have chosen law school!
Profile Image for Jim.
294 reviews
August 3, 2018
I don't think "Revenge" is considered a book genre, but it should be. Apparently I really love books on revenge.

1820's Middle America. A trapper is mauled (nearly to death) by a grizzly bear and left for dead by his companions. Only he doesn't die. Now, half-dead and unable to stand, he sets out to crawl his way across hostile and untamed land to seek revenge on those who abandoned him.

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Leonardo DiCaprio. This is a man's book. In fact, with the exception of an ancient Native American woman, there are no female characters in this book. The Revenant reminded me a lot of movies such as There Will Be Blood and True Grit. Or, to a lesser extent, the book The Stars My Destination (although in a much different time period).

The Revenant is based on the true story of Hugh Glass, an American fur trader. It's hard to believe that anyone could have lived this story. I'm certainly glad that I live in the 21st Century with electricity and cell phones, and Penicillin. Granted, I'll never be as "weather-hardened" as any one of the characters in this story, but my life expectancy should be at least twice as long. Still, with epic lines such as "Happy New Year, you dirty sons of bitches", this book will make you long for a life lived on the edge of the known world, where you're free to decide, and implement, your own brand of justice.
Profile Image for Aishu Rehman.
817 reviews735 followers
November 19, 2020
This Writer satisfies my expectations of what I think makes a great story. He describes America in the early 1800's in enough detail to engage all of my senses: I could see, hear, taste, touch and smell the great outdoors in my vivid imagination, including the blood of a freshly killed and butchered animal, followed by the savory roasting of meat over an open fire. His dialogue feels true to his characters. Sometimes Mr. Punke can only describe the silence that passes between his characters, but that seems fitting for his cast of rugged mountain men. He narrates the story through the actions and words of his multi-dimensional characters, and does so without even hinting at judgements or opinions.

This is a story that goes way beyond revenge. The strength of will, integrity of character, Hugh's deep love of life deeply touched me. The raw determination to survive was so powerful. Perhaps there is some fiction in the story. Hugh Glass does seem too good to be true, but it makes one terrific read.
Profile Image for Selene.
595 reviews134 followers
March 16, 2016
The Revenant is a story of survival, determination, rage, and want for revenge. The overall plot was good but the detail (while useful for the story) made the story hard to read at times. I found at times it read very fictional and during others it seemed very non fiction which made the story seem chunked.

Michael Punke did a fantastic job with his research. I loved that this story had me looking into Hugh Glass' history and the 19th century fur trade.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,685 followers
January 14, 2016
"Revenge is a dish that tastes best when served cold."
- Mario Puzo, The Godfather


The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
- Edgar Allan Poe

So, I did this totally proper like. I read the book first. Untainted by the movie and then went to see the movie. The book was good. It was interesting and had great characters. The writing was ok. Perhaps, I've read too many good Western/Frontier novels (Blood Meridian, Butcher's Crossing, etc.], so a 3.5 star book isn't going to thrill me. It read like an older, slightly wiser awkward brother to My Side of the Mountain, Deathwatch, and seriously The Princess Bride). My big two beefs with the novel were the prose (again good, just not great) and the ending (meh).

So, this ends up being one of those novels where the movie ends up being more expansive and beautiful and perhaps, yes, artful than the original book. Part of that is due to Punke trying to at lest stay close to original events. He was clear when he deviated from the history (in the historical note) and because of this, it didn't crescendo and payoff like the movie. The movie ended up being more violent than the book (yes, the book was violent, but in a more contained way). The movie was like some weird mash-up/hybrid/mongrel of Werner Herzog and Terrence Malick. The visuals were amazing. But nature is a cold bitch for sure.

I have to admit I am more fascinated by the fact that Michael Punke is Obama's Ambassador to the WTO and Deputy US Trade Representative. The guy couldn't tour with Picador's new printing/edition of the novel, couldn't go to the LA premier of the movie. He can't even really talk about the novel or the movie because of Federal ethics rules prohibit pimping stuff while you work for the Feds. Anyway, the guy is 10 years older than me, and first published this novel about 14+ years ago. Anyway, I end up being just as fascinated with the author's story, the story of the real Hugh Glass, and the way the book intersects and differs from the movie MORE than I was impressed by the actual book. So I guess there is THAT.
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,988 reviews14 followers
January 10, 2016
Description: The year is 1823, and the trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company live a brutal frontier life. Trapping beaver, they contend daily with the threat of Indian tribes turned warlike over the white men's encroachment on their land, and other prairie foes—like the unforgiving landscape and its creatures. Hugh Glass is among the Company's finest men, an experienced frontiersman and an expert tracker. But when a scouting mission puts him face-to-face with a grizzly bear, he is viciously mauled and not expected to survive.

The Company's captain dispatches two of his men to stay behind and tend to Glass before he dies, and to give him the respect of a proper burial. When the two men abandon him instead, taking his only means of protecting himself—including his precious gun and hatchet— with them, Glass is driven to survive by one desire: revenge. With shocking grit and determination, Glass sets out crawling inch by inch across more than three thousand miles of uncharted American frontier, negotiating predators both human and not, the threat of starvation, and the agony of his horrific wounds.

The river sequence in the film, my Main Man tells me, is a human impossibility - four minutes would freeze your average healthy specimen. He knows these things and lectures at the uni on such subjects. Scenery was wonderful thoughout.

Hugh Glass

Profile Image for Bill McDavid.
39 reviews2 followers
July 29, 2009
This was a quick and enjoyable book to read. Upon finishing it my first thought was that the ending was anticlimactic and the subtitle (A Novel of Revenge) was not well suited for the book. However, after thinking about it a little more I realized that perhaps the ending, though fictionalized, is a very good summation of the nature of revenge in the real world... that it is never all it is cracked up to be.

I will also say that this book does a great job of putting into perspective how very easy we have it these day compared to 150+ years ago. For anyone who craves more of this kind of thing (but perhaps less fiction) I would recommend "Sources of the River", an excellent book that is based on the extensive journals of Canada's version of Lewis and Clark, David Thompson. Thompson is the one who made the maps that L&C used to get to the Mandan Villages.
Profile Image for Liesa.
293 reviews220 followers
February 1, 2016
Ich wollte “The Revenant” unbedingt lesen, weil ich mal wieder ein bisschen raus wollte aus meiner Comfortzone und weil ich das Gefühl hatte, das ich viel zu selten Bücher lese, die auf wahre Gegebenheiten beruhen und die zeitlich vor dem Zweiten Weltkrieg angesiedelt sind. “The Revenant” ließ mich damit gleich zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen – die Geschichte um den Trapper Hugh Glass spielt in den Jahren 1823/1824 und entsprang nicht der Fantasie von Michael Punke, sondern lässt sich anhand mehrerer historischer Dokumente tatsächlich nachweisen. Die Tatsache, dass derzeit die Verfilmung mit Leonardo DiCaprio und Tom Hardy auf den Kinoleinwänden zu bewundern ist, weckte mein Interesse nur noch mehr – immerhin ist der Film für den ein oder anderen Oscar nominiert – und das machte es für mich noch umso interessanter, vor dem Gang ins Kino auch noch die dazugehörige Buchvorlage zu lesen.

“The Revenant” ist ein sehr bildlicher Überlebensbericht, anders lässt es sich nicht zusammenfassen. Hugh Glass wird von einem Grizzly angegriffen und erleidet starke Verwundungen (die mir fast zu detailliert beschrieben wurden, ich bin in dieser Hinsicht aber auch wirklich sehr empfindlich). Die Gruppe an Pelztierjägern, mit der er unterwegs ist, kann sich nicht wegen seiner Verletzungen aufhalten lassen – die Zeit ist knapp bemessen und sie müssen bis endgültigen Einbruchs des Winters noch eine lange Strecke zurücklegen, dazu kommt, dass sie Angriffe von feindlich gesinnten Indianerstämmen, insbesondere den Arikaras befürchten. Weil Hugh Glass einer ihrer geschätztesten Crew-Mitglieder ist, wollen sie ihn aber auch nicht einfach zum Sterben zurücklassen, obwohl sich alle sicher sind, dass er diese Verwundungen nicht überleben kann. So beschließen sie, das zwei Männer mit Glass zurückbleiben, seinen Tod abwarten und ihm dann ein angemessenes Grab bereiten sollen. Bei Glass bleiben der junge Bridger, der sich ernsthaft darum bemüht, dass Glass sich vielleicht sogar wieder erholt und der selbstsüchtige Fitzgerald, dem es nur darum geht, einen Bonus einzustreichen und der es gar nicht erwarten kann, Glass loszuwerden. Als Bridger und Fitzgerald eines Tages Indianer am Fluss sehen, machen sie sich vor Angst aus dem Staub – Fitzgerald lässt dabei Glass’ heißgeliebte Waffe und auch seine anderen überlebenswichtigen Gegenstände mitgehen…

Es ist unglaublich, was Glass für ein Überlebenswillen haben musste, um all das ohne vernünftige medizinische Behandlung zu überleben und sich alleine den Missouri entlangzuschleppen. Beim Lesen dachte ich immer wieder, wie gut wir es heute haben; wir haben alles was wir brauchen und noch viel mehr, während die Männer, die damals in der Wildnis unterwegs waren, ihr Feuer selbst anzünden mussten, Fallen selber bauen mussten und vor allen Dingen im Winter (!) unter freiem Himmel mit nichts als einer halben Wolldecke schlafen mussten. Für mich ist ja schon zelten im Sommer nicht wirklich etwas, aber diese monatelangen Wanderungen zur kältesten aller Jahreszeiten sprengen erst Recht meine Vorstellungskraft – und das alles nur in der Hoffnung auf Wohlstand und Reichtum. Hugh Glass ging es dabei aber sogar um noch viel mehr, nämlich in erster Linie um Rache. Er wollte nichts lieber, als sich an den Männern, die ihn einfach sein Schicksal überlassen haben, ganz ohne Waffen oder Werkzeug, zu rächen. Und auf diesem Weg dürfen wir ihn begleiten.

Michael Punkes Schreibstil ist sehr simpel und ohne viele Schnörkel. Teilweise klang er mir fast schon zu sachlich und trocken, ich hätte mir an vielen Stellen ehrlich gesagt schon irgendwie emotionalere Beschreibungen gewünscht, aber vielfach las es sich tatsächlich wie ein Überlebensbericht. Es war zwar nie langweilig, denn ein Abenteuer folgte dem nächsten, aber trotz allem war es mir einfach nicht wirklich möglich, eine Bindung zu Hugh Glass oder einem der anderen Charaktere aufzubauen – das ganze Buch blieb von Schluss bis Ende ziemlich distanziert und auch wenn wir sogar Ausschnitte aus der Vergangenheit der Protagonisten lesen durften, war mir das doch “zu wenig”, um mir als Sympathie oder eben Abneigung gegenüber den Figuren zu entwickeln.

“The Revenant” gefiel mir trotzdem besser, als ich vielleicht erwartet hätte. Ich habe einiges dazugelernt und im Anhang gab es sogar noch einen kleinen Bericht darüber, was nach Ende des Buches mit den einzelnen Personen geschah und welche Teile der Geschichte rein fiktiv waren und welche sich tatsächlich so zugetragen haben. Das Buch ließ sich unheimlich schnell lesen und war durchweg interessant – wenn auch wie gesagt leider ohne viele Gefühlsregungen oder Emotionen. Dementsprechend würde ich das Buch denjenigen empfehlen, die sich für historische Romane begeistern können, die nichts gegen viel Blut haben und die schon immer einmal wissen wollten, wie man Anfang des 19. Jahrhundert so völlig auf sich alleine gestellt überleben kann. Von mir bekommt “The Revenant” 3.5 von 5 Sternen. Und ratet mal, wer sich jetzt wie verrückt auf den Film freut!
Profile Image for Henry.
635 reviews27 followers
August 28, 2020
An epic adventure novel of survival, obsession, revenge and redemption. Punke has written a novel of the American West that I believe is destined to be a classic. The movie was good, but don't be satisfied with it. Read the book. I keep saying that again and again because even some great movies, for example, The Grapes of Wrath and To Kill a Mockingbird, aren't as good as the books from which they are adapted. The only one that I believe comes close is The Godfather.
Profile Image for 11811 (Eleven).
662 reviews138 followers
April 3, 2016
I have no idea why this was supposed to be so awesome. I liked it but it was a firm '3 star' like, not a 'holy shit that was so awesome' like. Maybe the film will enlighten me.
Profile Image for LA Cantrell.
424 reviews544 followers
May 6, 2016
Well, after just digesting a group read set in the Civil War, you'd think I'd be sick of hanging out in the 1800s. Nope! Incredibly, I've been happily glued to The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, set in 1823. Yes, this is the book on which the Leonardo DiCaprio movie was based, but I didn't let that stop me. If you've seen the trailers or glimpsed the book jacket, none of the below will be a big spoiler - although there are things in the book ignored by the movie and of course, Hollywood's heroism and anguish tossed in as a substitute. This is, however, an honest assessment from a middle aged lady - not some high action or shoot-em-up movie junkie. I loved it!

The book was pretty impossible for me to put down. Yes, it's historical fiction, but the portions that were true were amazing. Hugh Glass was a real life fellow who as a child, loved to read. His parents thought this tendency might lead to a scholarly future, but instead, it made him crave the exploration of new places. He became a sailor - a cabin boy, actually, at age 16.

Here in Louisiana, we know all about Jean Lafitte the pirate (or Baratarian, which is the polite term for Lafitte), and it turns out that his crew overtook the ship that Glass was serving on. Young Glass faked his ability to understand French and was taken on as a hand by Lafitte's crew instead of being thrown overboard like most of his fellow sailors. From there, Hugh eventually ended up ashore in Campeche (now known as Galveston), embroiled in a skirmish and with no supplies. A jouncing wagon, running from the fight, ended up being the salvation of Hugh and his comrade - a box of very expensive rifles toppled off. They each grabbed one and ran like hell.

Glass's perspective? That beautifully-made rifle was his defense. It fed him. It provided him a living. And it was a reminder, a decade later, of all that he had been through and the friends he lost along the way.

After surviving Pawnee capture and attacks made by the Arikara tribe, when that rifle was stolen from him and he was left for dead, Hugh Glass refused to take it lying down. Two "friends" from the Rocky Mountain Fur Company were the men he sought to find and punish, and as a man who seemingly had come back from the dead, Glass was indeed a revenant for them.

This historical fiction was well researched, as best can be for frontier history 200 years old, but the story was told so beautifully, it was impossible to separate out the poetic license. One thing I loved was the appearance of Toussaint Charbonneau, the widower of Sacagawea. The author took real occurrences known about Charbonneau and others, then added them in. In the story, Toussaint saw himself as solely an interpreter and refused to take turns keeping overnight watch for attack. He thought himself above it - this fact is documented in the writings of Lewis and Clark.

There are other little tidbits for history lovers, and the factual pieces make this a fun read - if you're okay with an occasional scalping, the eating of dog, and a few maggots in one's wounds. Granted, a story about revenge, dodging arrows and bullets, and slogging through snow could be seen as a Debbie Downer...but there are these funny and sometimes poignant moments brought in by various frontiersmen. I adored the French Canadian brothers whose insults for one another were only surpassed by their love.

Anyway, although I listened to this via audio from the library (totally kick butt narration), I loved the book so much that I've ordered a hard copy for my husband and son. If you need a gift idea for Father's Day, I highly recommend The Revenant. For this middle aged lady, it was pretty awesome too.
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