The River at Night, by Erica Ferencik

Review:

The River at Night - Erica Ferencik

A compulsively readable survival thriller ala Deliverance and The Descent that is begging to be adapted into a show or film. It features a group of friends in their late 30s, all women, who don’t regularly see one another in their day to day lives but who take periodic, adventurous vacations away from it all. On this vacation their fearless leader, Pia, has arranged for them to raft a river in Maine, one that is virtually “undiscovered,” according to their young, male guide. Read “undiscovered” as in the middle of nowhere, no cell phone coverage, and no help nearby. You see where this is going.

Disaster strikes during the trip, and the group is forced to make tough decisions and survive a dangerous situation that only gets more dangerous. The strain heightens tensions and reveals cracks in the group, and everyone loses their shit in a way specific to each character. Our narrator is Winifred (Win or Wini), clearly the least brave of her friends, a woman who’s recently lost her husband (divorce/separation) and younger, deaf brother. She’s lonely, at sea in her life but without the impetus to make changes and be happier.

All the women bring their own baggage, but it’s Pia’s need to be “off the grid,” be authentic, whatever that means, that brings them to the river. Besides Win’s relatable narration, the adventure, and some very cool descriptions of their environment, the book’s refusal to say, simply, that nature is better and civilization is corrupt is a favorite aspect of the story.

Original post:
eevilalice.booklikes.com/post/1553287/the-river-at-night-by-erica-ferencik

The River at Night, by Erica Ferencik

The Lightkeepers, by Abby Geni

Review:

The Lightkeepers: A Novel - Abby Geni

This book captivated me for the first two-thirds, and then somewhere along the line I grew tired of what I once loved about it. I think I sensed that it would not satisfy the mysteries it set up. The novel has a bit of everything: natural science, art, mystery, psychological thrills, trauma, memory, interpersonal connections (and the lack thereof). In the end, it’s trying to be a bit too much, and not all the elements came together for me.

The protagonist is Miranda, a photographer who lost her mom at 14. The book begins at the end, with Miranda leaving the Farallon Islands off the coast of California; she’s spent about a year in this dangerous place with rough terrain and rougher wildlife. living with a bunch of biologists, most of whom aren’t the friendliest. It’s a place she’s come to love, but in the beginning, all you sense is that she’s escaping some danger or trauma. The rest of the book is told through letters she writes to her dead mother.

Geni’s prose can be gorgeous, but by the end it also becomes tedious. There are only so many descriptions of the ocean and horizon one needs. Some similes don’t feel right tonally for what’s being described. Other times, specific details are repeated needlessly. However, for much of the book I appreciated the language, and it’s one of the reasons I decided on three and a half stars versus only three.

Acts of violence begin occurring on the islands over the course of Miranda’s stay. Some are clearly not accidents, while others remain mysterious, whether the nature of the violence or who’s responsible. In this way, the book sets up at least one set of mysteries. Many of these and other mysteries are somewhat predictable in their resolution, even if I was temporarily distracted by other options.

The title refers to two kinds of people who’ve populated the islands in the past–the light(house)keepers and eggers. The latter ransacked the islands to make money off murre eggs when there weren’t many chickens yet in California. The lightkeepers only wanted to protect the islands by non-interference. There’s a moment when this is the division that apparently characterizes any one person: you’re either a lightkeeper or egger. This felt trite and unnecessary to me, though besides the prose I’d say the degree of the characters’ noninterference–and its potential cost–was the most interesting aspect of the story.

The book also ends with a coda from another character’s pov that explains just about everything. Perhaps it’s meant to be haunting and shocking, but it felt anticlimactic to me. I’m not sure what I wanted from this book by the end, but I didn’t get it.

Original post:
eevilalice.booklikes.com/post/1499989/the-lightkeepers-by-abby-geni

The Lightkeepers, by Abby Geni