The River at Night, by Erica Ferencik, tells the story of four friends who decide to go camping and white water rafting along a remote river in North America despite having no training or previous experience in such pursuits. When things go catastrophically wrong they must draw on every ounce of resolve to survive. The trials faced will change them forever.
The story is told from the point of view of Win, a frustrated artist still grieving from the breakdown of her marriage and the death of her brother. When her long time friend, the effervescent and seemingly fearless Pia, calls on Win to sign up to her latest exciting plan for the women’s annual get-together, she is reluctant to agree. Only her fear of missing out when the rest of their friendship group have confirmed their attendance makes her say that she is also in.
Rachel is a nurse and recovering alcoholic. Sandra is a cancer survivor and mother of two. All four of the friends are middle aged city dwellers seeking adventure but with little concept of the extent of the danger they are putting themselves in. There are casual mentions of botox injections, concern over hairstyles. This is not a foursome used to respecting the power of nature.
The women have commited to a four day challenge led by twenty year old Rory, a handsome young man who considers himself a master on the river. They are his first booking on a new business venture that his father is helping him set up following youthful scrapes with the law. I can only assume that his inexperience accounts for the lack of an emergency plan – the inclusion of flares, perhaps a satellite phone, along with training in their use should they be required. The group are off grid indulging in a high risk activity yet have no means of calling for assistance.
The disasters that follow are exacerbated by the dangers residing in the dense forests bordering the river. As each new threat to their survival must be faced each woman’s selfishness comes to the fore. This is not a feel good story of a group empathetically pulling together for the good of all.
By the end I barely cared if the women perished. They were mean and egotistical, their reactions foolish and bullying. They treated their one offer of assistance, who risked sharing a valued means of escape, with contempt. Frustrating though this episode was to read – I felt angry at times with the women’s attitudes – it fitted with their city lives.
The plot was well constructed and the writing flowed. The imagery evoked the beauty of the forest as well as nature’s power. That I disliked the protagonists does not make this a poor story. It did however detract from my enjoyment.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Raven Books.