edited the summary of Where the River Splits Sunday, May 15, 2011.
Struggling to save their marriage, David and Susan Brooks must canoe raging white water by moonlight to escape a forest fire deep in the Canadian wilderness; their canoe capsizes and they struggle to opposite sides of the river. David searches for his wife but eventually accepts the worst, and he feels oddly unburdened, free not only from their marriage but from himself. When he finds Susan unconscious in a cabin, he is stunned; he goes out for more firewood; a longhaired, camouflaged, drunk hunter returns and David hides, sensing trouble. He formulates a plan, but stumbles and hurts himself. When able, he rushes the cabin to “save” his wife only to find it empty. David decides to remain “dead.”
Susan wakes in a hospital and confronts the sexual advances of her “savior,” the hunter, Kester Blucuski. And the insurance agent, Mike Jurgan, wants to prove David is still alive and avoid paying $300,000. The “dead” David Brooks hitchhikes back to their St. Louis home, pre-dates a $4000 check, and takes the deed to his Wyoming property. He hears the click of the front door. Susan hears someone running down the basement steps. David runs into the park, hides, cashes the check, and flees town. David confides in Carson, Wyoming real estate agent.
While David searches for redemption in the mountains, Susan attends his funeral, and she receives a mysterious card, “In your heart, he lives.” To escape her past, Susan studies Pre-Columbian civilizations. Another card arrives, followed by Kester Blucuski and further advances; Kester is ill, his lungs rattling with blood and phlegm. She confronts him about the cryptic cards; he says that he heard something in the forest and that maybe David is alive and just doesn’t want her anymore. Kester promises to track down her husband and kill him. Jurgan discovers payments for the Wyoming property, but no deed. Susan knew nothing about the property and wonders what else her husband kept from her.
Running away again, David is driving down the rutted mountain road, but stops to help a man out of the ditch, Kester Blucuski, who lunges at David with a knife and coughs blood. David sideswipes Kester, meets Carson, who warns that his wife is minutes away. Susan, Jurgan, and Carson find Kester, who staggers into Susan’s arms and dies. Susan discovers that Jurgan was paying Blucuski to look for David.
David attempts a new life as a San Diego real estate agent named Dave Cregan but is unable to escape his past, deflecting recognition by a client from St. Louis. And, at Tijuana strip joint, an old friend insists he knows him despite David’s denials.
Susan discovers that Jurgan sent the mysterious cards in an attempt to flush her out, suspecting that Susan and David were making a fraudulent claim, and now someone is using her husband’s prescription refill number.
Desperate to ignore the possibility that her husband left her, Susan explores the ruins of an Aztec temple. David realizes that he cannot go forward without gaining forgiveness for his past. In Puerto Vallarta, he begins a frantic search for Susan, eventually finding Susan Moore. She has discarded his name.
Susan meets him in the moonlight, with the surf pounding white, like the white water in Canada. She recognizes her husband, the clues falling into place. David follows her to a museum where she defends herself by suppressing emotion and reciting information about Aztec artifacts. At the museum, Jurgan accuses them of fraud.
Susan and David together flee into the Mexican highlands and go to the Aztec ruins where David offers his heart to the gods and to Susan. But can she forgive her husband and retain hard won individuality? The artifacts are coming to life and surrounding an injured David in the descending light. Susan tries to leave him to die as surely he must’ve left her but wants to know what they had learned by digging up the past. Susan chooses compassion and forgiveness and helps him out of the wilderness.