The River At Night by Erica Ferencik (5 out of 5)
Woo hoo! Another great January, 2017 release! I can’t wait to out all of these up next month. New Year, New Books. Hey, I think I just thought of my first endcap after the holidays are over. This book is out Jan 10, 2017, from Scout Press (an affiliate of Simon & Schuster). I have to be honest. I had no idea of what to expect from this book at first. I started it Friday but got through some pages here and there over the weekend. Then the sinuses and snowfall intervened, so that was the end of that. I got home after work last night and after tuning into my first radio gig (I have a new gig on the side…DJ for a radio station from 9pm-midnight) being broadcast, settled into it. And didn’t move for another 2 hours! Which is how long it took to read the entire book. I could not put it down. When I say I had no idea what to make of it, I meant it in the best way. Books like this are hard to find, where you have one turn after another, and not just on a raft down a river of despair. The best description I can come up with is that it’s like “The Revenant” but with a group of friends and a long, winding river of despair.
Wini is the most reluctant of participants when her free spirit friend Pia suggests she and their mutual friends Rachel and Sandra go on a river rafting adventure in the middle of nowhere in Maine. This is unchartered territory in many ways…namely, because their 20 year guide Rory assures them that this is a river and area that no PERSON outside of himself and his father has explored. To add to this, his father owns most of the land free and clear. This is a fact early on that gets a lot of wordplay in the narrative, when the women have a nasty run-in with town menfolk who badmouth the guide and his dad. Then it seems to vanish from the narrative, but it can be argued that it not only sets a tone, but also explains the lack of any human help along the treacherous path the women and their guide are on. I am still working through the book’s nuances. Can you tell? Wini goes along with it but is upfront about her doubts and fears, generally looked at as a killjoy, but the women and Rory set off. It becomes clear early on that Pia is hot to trot for the guide and the other 3 women quickly become irritated with her, especially when their first night on the trip ends with them being an unwilling audience to Pia and Rory’s spontaneous combustion. The next day comes and Wini, Sandra, and Rachel let Pia have it for forgetting the purpose of their trip- to share an adventure of a lifetime and bond closer as friends. Pia stalks off and latches herself onto their guide, and the division among the friends is clear. The importance of Rory telling them to navigate the river’s dangerous as a TEAM becomes clear when an unspeakable tragedy happens and the women are on their own without Rory OR the raft, which is filled with their supplies and rations. They set out on foot, exhausted and wounded, and believe there is may be a miracle when they come upon a bedraggled man cooking game over a fire. The man (Dean) is mute, but he fetches his mom Simone, who is a combination of Kathy Bates’ character in “Misery” and a female Davey Crockett, but even crazier than that combination. Simone gives them the tour and creeps them the hell out, but gives them lodgings and warm animal hides to sleep in- outside. She also collars Dale and quietly informs him that while he will escort the women to civilization upon daylight, he will also KILL THEM. The ladies get suspicious and sneak off during the night time, and take Dean’s raft to get away. The next day they make strides, and think they have it made, but Dean has found them, and eventually his loony mother does as well and all hell breaks loose. The women and Dean will never be the same again. People, I have to tell you- there are SO many hidden lessons in this book. The value of friendship, unresolved grief over the death of a brother, second chances, the importance of working as a team, survival of the fittest, the past is never far behind, etc. A multitude. And besides the narrative, and several moments of pure anguish over some things that take place in the narrative, no idea what us ahead for the ladies and their helper Dean. But this book? Stays with you! I had a similar feeling when I saw “The Revenant”. That’s part of the reason I compared it. Not only because I felt there was a semblance of narrative of the survival instinct, but because that movie stayed with me for a long time. As I sense this book will stay with me for a long time. And you, as well. It is nowhere as grisly as the movie I compare it to, but you have to have grit in spades to read the book. So, if Nora Roberts is your idea of a great read, this will not appeal in the least. If you want a great adventure thriller with some genuinely scary parts, this is the book for you. I highly recommend it!