Book Title: The River at Night
Author: Erica Ferencik
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Adventure, Contemporary Fiction
Date Read: 01/07/17
Pub Date: 01/10/17 (HAPPY PUB DAY!)
Winifred Allen needs a vacation.
Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.
What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare: A freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.
Can we just take a moment to appreciate how gorgeous this cover is? I was so excited when I received this in the mail; I kept hearing wonderful things about the story and just holding the book in my hands made me feel like I was going to get splashed by moving water. Early on, I saw many reviewers comparing this book to a modern day Deliverance featuring women on a girl’s trip instead of men. Confession: I’ve never seen the movie or read the book. I know, I know, it’s a classic, but somehow I managed to stay away from all spoilers and discussion surrounding both books (and movie), so this was a truly special reading experience for me! I was able to go into this one blind, which I highly recommend (and I’m doing that more, so maybe I’m just going to start going into most or all books this way). I did look up spoilers on wikipedia to find out the plot of Deliverance and, while yes there are many similarities, I found this to still be a unique and different enough read to stand on it’s own without the constant comparisons.
Whew, now that I got that off my chest, let’s move on. The plot moved slowly in the beginning and took careful opportunities to set up our characters and background. Wini, our narrator, is a cautious and mostly anxious individual whom I bonded with immediately. I am NOT a nature person (ask Mr. Humphrey), and I could relate on all levels to the many issues she had with going on a trip while not having a back up list of facts surrounding the company they were using for the rafting tour and information on the surrounding area. I loved the depth that the author gave to the remaining girlfriends as well; I found myself also drawn to Sandra but slightly disliking Rachel and Pia. I thought this was an excellent way of writing many different characters as we readers have many different facets of personality and will all relate well with the different characters in the story. The first half of the book is heavily character driven, and if you are a reader who doesn’t appreciate this aspect as much as the rest of us do, then hold on, you’re about to jump on the ride of your life.
Once we get to the actual action and begin our descent down the river (with landmarks named things like Satan’s ladder-WHY DO PEOPLE DO THIS FOR FUN?!), we take off and hold our breath quite literally until the final page. Each time we think the girls are safe for a few minutes something else exciting (read terrifying) happens and we have to clench our butt cheeks again. I read the last 66% of this book is one gasping session, and while I won’t give out specifics, we are kept wondering just who will be alive at the end and survive. I love how she ended the book; there is plenty of closure but it is not clean and neat by any means. We find out how the survivors are doing and our narrator develops a special friendship that is carried through the end and helps ease the pain of her own losses prior to the girl’s trip.
I apologize for how choppy this review is, but I wanted to try and convey the strengths I found in this book without giving away any of the twists and surprises in the plot that make it such a worthy read. I’m really excited to see more reader’s reviews over time and compare notes on their feelings toward the characters and some of the major turn of events throughout the book. (The “Rory Scene” was so disturbing and well written; I’ll be thinking about it for many months and you’ll know exactly what I’m referring to once you’ve read the book.) Highly recommended for fans of exciting thrillers that also contain fleshed out characters; this book had a nice balance of the things I generally look for in an intense read and I think we’ll be hearing Erica Ferencik’s name for years to come. Well done and I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next!
*Many thanks to Scout Press Books for my review copy; it was a pleasure to provide honest feedback!