‘When the adventure of a lifetime…
becomes a fight to stay alive’
The River At Night is a novel written by Erica Ferencik, borne out of her frustration of being unable to find such a novel in the bookshops.
Published in January 2017 by Raven Books (Bloomsbury), I was delighted to receive a copy to review for the wonderful TripFiction website.
‘No Phone Coverage.
Read on for my thoughts….
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.
With intimately observed characters, visceral prose, and pacing as ruthless as the river itself, The River at Night is a dark exploration of creatures—both friend and foe—that you won’t soon forget.
Four friends, Win, Pia, Sandra and Rachel have all faced personal battles in their lives. Having forged a deep friendship over the years, they make a point of going on an annual vacation together, allowing them to relax and spend some downtime in each others company. As the years have passed these adventures have given them memories to retain when each returns to their own complex lives.
This year, things are a little different for Win. After burying her beloved brother Marcus and after the breakdown of her marriage, Win is looking for a relaxing break, one where she can gather her thoughts and chill out with her buddies….but Pia has other ideas.
Pia is the adrenaline junkie of the four. Pia struggles with her life and is constantly looking for the next challenge. With her energetic enthusiasm and thirst for something more, Pia persuades the group to try something completely different,,,,white-water rafting in the wilderness of Maine.
Allagash is the location for their adventure, ‘an outpost community at the entry to Maine’s vast private forestlands’ ~ Ref: Allagash Info
After much organising and purchasing of gear for the trip, the four set off, with Pia at the wheel. The nervous excitement, mixed with trepidation, is palpable from all four as they begin to realise what they have committed themselves too.
After a long day of driving through unfamiliar countryside, they finally reach their destination.
‘Industrial lights glowed greenish in the windows of a long, low building, while a few spotlights near the roofline attempted to breach a profound darkness…(the) night air at least twenty degrees colder than Boston’s balmy high seventies we’d enjoyed that morning.’
Once settled in, the four meet their guide Rory. He’s young, so very enthusiastic and it’s not long before his excitement filters through to the friends.
The following day, they head off with Rory on an adventure that will change their lives forever…
‘As we climbed higher, the hardwoods thinned out, and we wandered among shoulder-high fir and spruce. Soon even the conifers fell away. Above the tree line now, we walked on bedrock, scree kicking back behind us. Fairy green, lichen jeweled, stone outcroppings..The view stunned me, and I gasped. I don’t know why I was surprised to find such beauty.’
As the girls continue on through the forest, they reach base camp and prepare for the days ahead.
At this point there is a change in the dynamic of the book.
The descriptions in The River At Night become both frightening and enthralling at the same time. The forest is a dark and unsettling place where there are creatures that lurk behind rocks and trees.
As the four friends embark on their first white-water rafting experience, they are pumped with adrenaline and prepared to take on the challenges they will face…
Soon a tragedy occurs and it soon becomes evident that the four friends are facing a battle to survive. As the odds mount up against them, an unexpected curve ball is thrown their way. They drop their guard slightly and make discoveries that will require them all to dig deep into their resources.
The River At Night is a book about four friends who embark on the most frightening of adventures. We read how they learn to hone their endurance skills when faced with a threatening and hostile environment.
The River at Night is a novel that moves as swiftly as the rapids. With short chapters and the most powerful descriptions of the wilderness in Maine, it’s a book that will hold you in it’s grasp. It’s very easy to imagine the power of the river, the thundering noise from the rapids and set against that, the beauty and sheer force of nature.
Sex and the City meets Bear Grylls would be an apt description for this novel. A thriller set in the wilds with four friends who have a very strong bond that is tested to the limit. Yes there are parts of the novel when you do have to stretch your imagination a little but I do think that is well compensated for by the strength of the descriptive prose used by Erica Ferencik.
I honestly believe this book would make a great movie with the river as the fifth character. Big screen, wonderful setting in Maine and the loud boom from the rapids….and the popcorn of course!!
Purchase Link : The River at Night
Meet the Author:
‘I write what I want to read. My sweet spot, my fascination, is what happens when civilization crashes into the wild world. Frankly, I was desperate for a novel about four female friends pitted against each other as they tried to survive a disastrous weekend white-water rafting….So I found myself writing it.’
Erica Ferencik is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Boston University. Her work has appeared in Salon and The Boston Globe, as well as on National Public Radio.