This rafting trip turned into a huge disaster

I hope you never experience a rafting trip like this one. In her new novel, The River at Night, Erica Ferencik sends four ladies on a north Maine woods rafting trip that turns into a disaster – and that’s putting it mildly.

As the ladies raft turned upside down and dumped them into the cold and fast-moving remote river, I remembered a similar experience on the West Branch of the Penobscot River. In the last of a series of major bumps at the Crib Works, our raft overturned, trapping some of us under it while others floated in the foaming river. Fortunately, we were in the slow water very quickly and able to get out from under the raft and to shore, where we righted the raft and continued on.

The ladies continue on as well, but not the way we did. Death, murder, and mayhem lie ahead, in a spine-tingling series of events as they struggle to find their way out of the deep woods.

Ferencik is a great writer and her story seems all-too-real. She even captures the allure of the north woods. She’s especially good at writing dialogue.

In the Acknowledgments, she thanks “everyone in Maine who put me up and answered countless questions.” I especially liked her thank you to “the brave souls living off the grid who invited me into your buses, teepees, cabins, yurts, and boats to share your insights and inspire me with your impassioned individualism.”

Ferencik had never been north of Portland, and she began her journey by contacting Chambers of Commerce up north. “Everyone I spoke to on the phone” she explained, “said: well, these folks don’t want to be contacted. That’s why they live off the grid…but I do know someone who knows someone… soon I was able to line up half a dozen interviews with people who had decided to disappear.”

I can only hope she didn’t find anyone like the mother and son who those lady rafters encountered in the novel!

“I left my house with a backpack filled with power bars, warm clothes and mace,” said Ferencik, “with plans to interview five individuals and one family who had decided to cut themselves off from civilization. It wasn’t easy to convince my husband I was going to be okay, but in the end he let me go.” Having just finished this gripping novel, I thank her husband for that!

Ferencik also gives “A big nod to the state of Maine itself, as well as my apologies for the liberties I took with your geography.”

I’m glad she created her own space in the north woods, because if she had used a real place and a real rafting company, none of us would ever raft with them again!


George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.