The River at Night by Erica Ferencik
The River at Night is a story of four middle-aged women (friends for years) who decide to go on an adventurous and remote whitewater rafting trip in Maine, despite the reservations most of them have about the whole thing. It’s meant to be thrilling and exciting (or so I assume from the marketed genre of the book), but it has its highs and lows (and the lows are really more than they ought to be).
For most of the first half of this book, I was bored out of my mind and definitely ready to throw in the towel. It was full of introspection and backstory and overwriting, and I couldn’t see how this book would be classified as a thriller. It definitely seemed like more of a drama between friends, if even that, and it didn’t live up to expectations. Even the early parts describing their rafting adventure weren’t all that thrilling to me.
A little more than halfway through, things did pick up and I no longer wanted to put the book down. I wanted to keep reading to figure out what was going to happen. It was definitely the thriller we were promised from this point, and I was glad I’d stuck it out.
That’s the thing, though: is it really a thriller worth reading if nothing even remotely thrilling or exciting happens until at least halfway through? I’m not so sure. And beyond that, I didn’t love the Simone/Dean story. I understand that it’s part of what lends some suspense to the story, but psychos appearing out of nowhere just really aren’t that plausible to me.
Plus, and this is a small spoiler, I didn’t buy that Dean would know any official, recognizable signs, having lived in the middle of the woods with his crazy mother for almost two decades. How would he have learned that? And if they weren’t standard signs, how did Wini manage to understand him so well, to the point that they were having full conversations? Unless Simone learned sign language before running off to the woods (highly unlikely), I just don’t see this as a real possibility.
So, I guess what I’m saying is that the beginning was pretty terrible in my opinion, and while the second half got more thrilling (and made me remember back to my naive youth, when I wanted to do things like whitewater rafting and chasing storms), it wasn’t really all that plausible.
I don’t do half stars and I debated between giving this two and three stars, but since the second half did pull me in, I gave it three. I’m still not positive I’d recommend this, though, at least not if what you’re looking for is a plausible thriller. My overall feelings here are kind of “meh”and while you might enjoy this as a quick read, I don’t think you’d be missing too much by skipping it.
*ARC from Gallery/Scout Press via NetGalley