THE RIVER AT NIGHT by Erica Ferencik


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A gal-pal vacation goes over the falls and into hell.

“I folded my arms. Felt my friends’ eyes burning into me. My God, I thought—how old do you have to be to listen to your gut?” Older than food-magazine art director Wini Allen, apparently, because despite the clanging alarm bells in her head, this tired, sad woman joins her longtime best friends on an extreme whitewater rafting trip in Maine planned by their ringleader, an Amazonian sneaker marketer named Pia Zanderlee. Gathering once a year for a group vacation, the foursome is “bound by invisible golden thread the fifty-one weeks a year we were apart. Tied in a golden bow the week we spend together....Dysfunctional in our own female-friendship way; but our bonds were unbreakable.” Their adventure in Maine will be led by a studly college student named Rory who has “shoulder-length dreadlocks” and “eyes the exact green of an asparagus mousse we’d featured in our March issue.” This is his fifth time on the largely inaccessible and untraveled river. In fact, the names for its passages—Satan’s Staircase, Hungry Mother, The Tooth—were coined by Rory himself. Things get off to a tense start when Pia and Rory noisily hook up the first night, but in the morning there is “peach-colored light behind the mountains” and a thrilling run on the river during which even Wini believes in God. “Looking back, I equate this stage of enjoying the wilderness with the second glass of wine,” she muses, falling back on a more familiar frame of reference. “Everything is lighter; you can see the funny side of disaster. But things rarely improve with the third, they get dangerous with the fourth, and you better pray to God someone is around to scoop you off the floor after that.” Actually, it’s far, far worse than that analogy would imply; at a certain point Ferencik’s latest (Repeaters, 2011, etc.) takes a turn for the bloody and deranged.

The wilderness adventure part of this book is excellent; the heart-of-darkness horror movie in the third act less so. Still, you won’t put it down.

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-5011-4319-9
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Scout Press/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2016


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