Upon returning to the Yampa Valley after a long vacation back East, I bumbled into the bookstore looking for a decent, quick read to enjoy on these welcomed rainy days. Scanning Off the Beaten Path's new paperback fiction section, my pointer finger landed on Erica Ferenick's "The River at Night." As a whitewater enthusiast and sucker for a well-designed cover, I plucked it off the shelf and brought it home.
The opening chapters start off a bit slow, establishing characters and setting up the plot. Wini, a neurotic divorcee who is still reeling from her brother's death, narrates the yearly summer vacation taken with three old girlfriends. The trip, organized by Wini's seemingly superwoman friend, Pia, involves a nine-hour drive to Northern Maine outpost, a muddy drive into the bush, and a lengthy hike to the edge of a pristine, not-yet-commercialized river. Led by a young, handsome raft guide, who has private access to the river put-in, the ladies embark on the true adventure: a 30 mile trek downstream, through the thick of the uncivilized Allagash Wilderness.
Initially and predictably, the trip starts out positively. A few physical bumps and minor disagreements between the friends during the first two days reveals personal paranoia and unresolved issues. On the third day, an unavoidable accident derails the entire excursion and places the women in a risky situation.
Ferenick, at this point, takes a page from James Dickey's "Deliverance" and injects feral savages into the plot. Encounters with these brutish people add a psychological thrill to the already gripping story. The group begins to question themselves and their own alliances, openly wondering if trusting these new humans will prove fatal.
"The River at Night" is certainly less physically gruesome than "Deliverance," but still manages to pull through with exciting prose, all the while providing excellent depth to the multi-layered female friendships at the heart of the novel.
"The River at Night" will appeal to any outdoor enthusiast looking for a good, fast-paced mystery. Ferenick writes about the moving water in a way that only John Wesley Powell could best. Following this novel downstream felt physical: the shocking cold, the pulsing murmurs, the rushing flows, the slicked rocks. It will also appeal to anyone interested in the dynamics of long friendships — specifically, why they matter and how they endure.
I managed to finish this book quickly one rainy evening earlier this week. The Yampa Valley seemed ominous from my bedroom window, matching the mood of the book itself. It was a perfect fit; a haunting book for a gloomy night. I crawled into bed creepily satisfied.
- Recommended by Victoria— From Book review: ‘The River at Night’ will appeal to outdoor enthusiasts
January 2017 Indie Next List
“What would you do to save the lives of your friends? In this debut novel, Winifred and her three friends are about to find out. Instead of a trip to a comfortable, fancy resort in some exotic destination, they embark on an excursion to the Allagash wilderness in upstate Maine. What happens next is everyone's nightmare, yet it leads to the kind of wisdom few people ever achieve. This is a tense, disturbing, yet satisfying story of the strength of friendship in the face of a severe challenge.”
— Linda Bond (E), Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, WA
A “raw, relentless, and heart-poundingly real” (Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author) thriller set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, The River at Night charts the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident.
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 and visceral prose, The River at Night “will leave you gasping, your heart racing, eyes peering over your shoulder to see what follows from behind” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author). This is a dark exploration of creatures—both friend and foe—that you won’t soon forget.
About the Author
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 NPR. Find out more on her website EricaFerencik.com and follow her on Twitter @EricaFerencik. She is the author of The River at Night and Into the Jungle.
Praise for The River at Night
“A gal-pal vacation goes over the falls and into hell. You won’t put it down.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“[An] adrenaline rush of a novel.”
— Publishers Weekly
"The River at Night is both a haunting, twisting thrill-ride through the Maine wilderness, and a story of friendship, humanity, and the will to survive. Terrifyingly real and impossible to put down."
— New York Times bestselling author Megan Miranda
"Raw, relentless and heart-poundingly real, this book knocked me off my feet like a river in spate."
— New York Times bestselling author Ruth Ware
"A twisting, turning thrill ride of a novel, The River at Night will sweep you along, pull you under and not let you come up for air until you’ve turned the last page. Erica Ferencik expertly captures the wild, untouched Maine landscape and the ferocity of both nature and humankind.”
— New York Times bestselling author Jennifer McMahon
"Lost in the brutal Maine wilderness, four women struggle to survive, testing the boundaries of their friendship and the limitations of their own strength and mortality. Terrifying and wholly visceral, The River at Night will leave you gasping, your heart racing, eyes peering over your shoulder to see what follows from behind. Take a deep breath before you begin because it’s the last you’ll have until you’re through."
— New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mary Kubica
"The River at Night is a dark, twisting, unrelenting thriller that kept me frantically turning the pages well into the night. Erica Ferencik skillfully combines jolting plot twists, lyrical prose, and a beautifully brutal setting, cementing The River at Night as my favorite debut novel of the year."
— New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf
“With a title like The River at Night, the plot had to be swift and twisting, yet what enraptured me completely was Wini's bigger triumph over the wilderness of the heart, a vivid journey amplified by a deeply textured depiction of both the devastating and glorious ways that true friendship can tear us down ... and build us back up again. Ferencik's writing pulses with a dangerous energy akin to the river she depicts.”
— New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Vicki Pettersson
“The River at Night is a white water thrill ride to be sure. But it’s more than than that. Erica Ferencik digs deep into friendship, midlife angst, and how we can surprise ourselves when the worst things happen. Wini is a character I can imagine myself knowing, sharing secrets over coffee. I pulled for her the whole way, through all the rapids, all the bends and twists of this terrific debut.”
— New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger
"Erica Ferencik's The River at Night is a high-octane debut, a thriller that combines the watery adventure of Deliverance with the twisting psychological suspense of Lisa Unger. This is a taut, tense novel that rushes like the fastest rapids. Grab a hold now and enjoy the ride!"
— Bestselling author David Bell
"Ferencik pushes her characters to the edge in a starkly beautiful and unforgiving wilderness, where their worst nightmares become all too real. A harrowing, devastating, and superbly written thriller, The River at Night grabbed hold of me and didn't let go until the final, perfect sentence."
— Bestselling author A.J. Banner
"In the tradition of James Dickey’s Deliverance, this exciting survival tale hooks from the first page."
— Library Journal
"Ferencik's debut novel is a must-read for anyone who loves high intensity thrillers. Her use of foreshadowing and flair for suspense is impeccable; it sets the stage for a terrifying few days in the wilderness of northern Maine. Rich imagery and attention to detail are just a few of the reasons why Ferencik is one of the best new thriller writers out there!"
— RT Book Reviews
"This novel quickly becomes a dark, more-twisted-than-the-river tale of secrets as night falls in the wilderness."
— Marie Claire
“Author Erica Ferencik’s storytelling [is]…brutally effective…hurtling River’s harrowing narrative along in a visceral, white-knuckle rush.”
— Entertainment Weekly
"The River at Night will take you on a heart-pounding literary ride through the harsh and gorgeous Maine wilderness…Ferencik’s debut novel will keep you on the edge of your seat.”
— The Riveter