The River at Night, by Erica Ferencik (2017)

The River at Night, by Erica FerencikLooking for a scary read for a long winter’s evening? Sad from the recent loss of her brother and her marriage, timid Wini sets aside her many misgivings to join her three girlfriends in their annual week-long get-together led by the fearless Pia. This year, Pia has chosen a river rafting trip in the wilds of Maine. Along with emergency room nurse Rachel and teacher Sandra, the four women embark on a 30-mile rafting trip, led by handsome 20-year-old Rory, dreadlocked and muscled, with eyes “the exact green of an asparagus mousse” graphic designer Wini had featured in spring. He’s certainly irresistible to Pia, leading to a noisy hook-up that sets the friends squabbling. Over the course of the first day or two on the river, we learn Rachel is a recovered alcoholic and Sandra’s husband is violent. Wini is burdened by guilt over the possible suicide of her brother Marcus, who was deaf, and Pia is questioning the purpose of her apparently trouble-free life. But the river is a demanding beast that requires all the rafters to work together, and slowly Wini begins to find some enjoyment in the adventure. She likens it to that second glass of wine prior to the ill-advised third. Yup, Wini should have paid attention to her intuition – about a third of the way down the river disaster strikes, and the four friends find themselves soaking wet, hungry and thirsty, with no raft, supplies, or guide, and very different opinions on how to proceed. It’s a survival story at heart, and I think would have benefited from staying just that. Ferencik chooses to add another element of danger – think Deliverance. ‘Nuff said. The bloody horror show that closes the book detracts from what could have been a simpler, stronger story. While it’s ultimately Wini’s story, I would have liked greater character development for the others. There’s some terrific writing though, and while the stranger danger is way over the top, it’s still a riveting read, and worth enjoying as a wilderness adventure story. My thanks to publisher Gallery Press for the advance reading copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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