The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

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“Some animal hunger for life took over.”

With all the talk of going off the grid, the idealization of nature and our place in it this is one heck of a novel. It isn’t all chirping birds and singing in the woods, even with the most adept guide disaster can occur. For Winifred and her three friends, it may be a nightmare! Each woman has her own issues to bring on this trip, which is all Pia’s grand idea! Pia, the strong, extroverted successful friend who is always looking for the newest thrill! Wini feels some comfort that Rachael is a nurse, because such skills could always come in handy. Loo (Sandra) has come on the trip despite her abusive husbands protestations. Maybe this will give her the strength she needs to make a hard decision about her marriage. For Wini,  wrecked by the loss of her beloved brother, broken by the end of her marriage, exhausted by her passionless job, this trip is an escape from a life that has become suffocating.

As they journey to their destination, they run into unwelcoming locals- the aggressive men turn comical though as the women get back on the road. It’s a simple passing moment, but the laughter is bonding. When they meet Rory, the young guide Pia has set them up with, immediately the friends are uncomfortable with the too friendly connection they have. This isn’t what the women signed up for, they were meant to focus on each other. Not a young, attractive guide! It also seems to Wini that his sell is a little too hard, they aren’t all buying his too good to be true upbeat speech about this unexplored part of the river!

When an accident befalls the friends, their true natures awaken. Rachael’s livid, the others are scared, everyone seems to be fighting or in shock. But there is a bigger danger waiting for them, just when they think they’ve found salvation! The mother and son they stumble upon living in the wilds of Maine seem to be hiding something. Nature suddenly becomes a biting beast itself. No one will be the same once this trip ends, if they make it out alive at all.

I spent the first half thinking about the reasons women befriend one another, the balance at play, how we sometimes need someone to push us, others to keep us in line, some to lead others to mother. Women’s friendships are as wild as the river these friends float on. They are fighting for their lives, and their reactions are at times ugly, but always honest. Blame keeps shifting, and often seems to land on Pia’s shoulders. There is a little horror here too with the disturbed family. The things that happen are sad, and it is a strange turn the story takes, but I liked it. I can see someone taking this and making a movie, I was already casting parts. Ferencik did a great job describing the rafting and the ‘off the grid’ make shift home of the mother and son… but I don’t want to give anything vital away. At turns exciting and sad.

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books

 

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