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The River at Night - Erica Ferencik

Win Allen is still recovering from the breakdown of her marriage and the death of her brother. The one highlight in her year is her annual holiday with her girlfriends. She longs for a week away on a beach, somewhere to forget her worries for a while. However, Pia, her adventurous friend, has other ideas. They are to go white water rafting in the wilds of Maine. Five days off the grid. Just Win, Pia, Rachel and Sandra and their guide. And no phones, no people and no sign of help if things go wrong…

 

This is a story where you start out knowing that something is going to go drastically wrong. I found myself willing Win to listen to her head, to the niggling voice telling her not to go, to follow her instincts. There is a thread of anxiety woven through this story, tugging constantly at the subconscious. The reader is on edge, waiting for disaster to strike, wondering what is round the next bend in the tumultuous river.

 

Much like the white waters, this books pulls you along at a frenetic pace, dragging you deeper into the story until you are completely submerged. As Win and her friends raced through the forest for survival I raced through their story. Though the opening of the story starts out slowly I was soon caught up the tale of survivial, willing the characters along, and I raced through the latter pages of the novel, the writing grabbing you and not letting go until the end.

 

The characters are all well drawn, flawed in their own ways and each possessing their own skills and strengths. Win is finding encroaching middle age hard. Her life is not at the stage she had envisaged when she was younger. Her marriage is in tatters, her beloved brother dead and she is stuck in a job she loathes. She has abandoned her true passion, art, and is conscious that her body doesn’t compare favourably, in her eyes, with the more athletic and lean Pia. Sandra is at a crossroads in her life, and hopes to use the trip to make decisions that could affect her and her children for ever. Rachel is still coming to terms with her sobriety and Pia is seeking adventure from her routine life, adventure that leads her to book white water rafting, to go bungee jumping and to prepare her body for any eventuality. As the story progresses each of the women change as the nightmare trip throws challenges at them. Win is faced with her weaknesses and challenges them head on. The others each find out aspects of themselves that were previously hidden, some welcome discoveries, others not so much.

 

This is not just a tale of survival. It is a tale of pushing yourself to do things you could never image achieving, of forgiving yourself and others of past wrongs and of reaching the stage in life when you can accept yourself for who you are, issues, flaws and strengths galore.

 

A well written, fast paced and thrilling read. I look forward to reading more from Erica Ferencik in the future.