I bought Into the Jungle by Erica Ferencik the moment I finished The River at Night. I wouldn’t have picked either book out in a bookstore, despite their pretty covers, because they are not in my preferred genre. It came to my bookshelf via a water-themed book lot that included some of my favorite psychological thriller authors. I am so glad I discovered this author and her amazing books.
Into the Jungle took me into a world that I didn’t even know I was interested in. As fascinating as the Amazon jungle is, I never thought I’d be flipping hungrily through pages. I stayed up late, wondering how the teenage American red-head is managing to survive in a place where everything seems to be trying to kill her. Erica Ferencik has a knack for writing realistically about the most remote places on Earth. Yes, I already have an eye out for her book set in the Antarctic, Girl in Ice!
Update: Erica Ferencik cemented on this review so I decided to add a section about her and quote her comment!
Into the Jungle by Erica Ferencik Synopsis
“Lily Bushwold thought she’d found the antidote to endless foster care and group homes: a teaching job in Bolivia. As soon as she could steal enough cash for the plane, she was on it.
When the gig falls through, world-weary Lily decides to stay in Bolivia when an intense passion finds her in the form she least expected: Omar, a savvy, handsome local man who’d abandoned his life as a hunter in Ayachero—a remote jungle village—to try his hand at city life.
When Omar learns that a jaguar has killed his four-year-old nephew in Ayachero, he gives Lily a choice: Stay alone in the unforgiving city, or travel to the last in a string of ever-more-isolated river towns in the jungles of Bolivia. Thirty-foot anaconda? Puppy-sized spiders? Vengeful shamans with unspeakable powers?
Lovestruck Lily is oblivious. She follows Omar to this ruthless new world of lawless poachers, bullheaded missionaries, and desperate indigenous tribes driven to the brink of extinction. To survive, Lily must navigate the jungle—its wonders as well as its terrors—using only her wits and resilience.”Goodreads
What I Loved
Everything! This book was so different from my first read by Erica Ferencik. Here, the protagonist was younger than me, just a teenager. Yet, the author doesn’t write about her like she’s some naive child. Despite realizing that what she is doing is crazy, Lily is strong, brave and develops a lot as a character throughout the story. Then there’s the setting, the jungle – how Erica Ferencik managed to write something like this without living in the Amazon jungle herself is beyond me. Unless she, like one of the characters in the book, is a real life shaman.
There is so much I liked about this book. There were shocking moments, a lot of action and I felt like I was in the Amazon myself. I also loved the relationships between the characters in the book. So many times I find that authors come up with unlikely friendships, rush relationships and often they lack depth or feel fake. Into the Jungle, just like The River at Night, have some of the most authentic relationships I’ve experienced in literature.
Sure, I love it when two rivaling coworkers bump into each other on the street, decide to get drunk and share their innermost secrets with each other. This even happened in a book that I recently read and loved despite this rom-com moment. It’s surprising how rare these realistic relationships are in novels. It makes me love Erica Ferencik even more.
What I Didn’t Love
I always hate writing this part in my reviews… especially when I loved the book so much. I guess here, I could say that when I first picked up the book, excited to read it, I put it down after just a few pages. Something about the first chapter didn’t excite me and I ended up leaving it on the shelf for over a year. When I finally picked it up again, I pushed past the beginning and I read it in just two days. Despite the author’s great writing, it did take me a while to get into this new world. If anyone else struggles to get into it, I do suggest that they keep reading because it’s worth it.
My only other complaint, although it’s more of something I noticed that isn’t necessarily bad, is that there are a few key similarities between this and The River at Night. I can’t get into it without a spoiler alert, but I worry that it will repeat itself in her next book. Even if it does, it won’t spoil the book for me and it seems to be one of the ways that Erica Ferencik portrays how powerful women are.
About Erica Ferencik
A few days after I published this, I got a comment from Erica herself! I am super honored and wanted to share it:
“Hello Olena! Thank you so much for this beautiful review of INTO THE JUNGLE!:) To research the story, I read dozens of books about the jungle, and spent the month of July, 2017 in the Peruvian Rainforest. I had to see, feel, hear, taste, experience this place for myself to bring it to the reader. I did something similar for THE RIVER AT NIGHT – spent two weeks alone in the Allagash Territory of Northern Maine interviewing people who live off the grid – this was also pretty frightening at times!
For my upcoming thriller, GIRL IN ICE, due out in September, 2021, I spent a month in Greenland (September, 2019). This is a story about a young girl who thaws from the ice alive speaking a language no one understands. Olena – thanks again for all your kind words, and best of luck with your writing! – Erica Ferencik”
More about her from her Goodreads profile:
Oprah chose Erica Ferencik’s debut novel, The River at Night as a #1 Pick, calling the book “the page-turning novel you’ve been waiting for, a heart-pounding debut.” Entertainment Weekly named it a “Must Read,” and calls the novel “harrowing…a visceral, white knuckle rush.” Miramax has recently optioned the novel for a film.
Her new novel, Into the Jungle, one woman’s terrifying journey of survival in the Bolivian Amazon, will be released on May 28, 2019. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review, calling it: “[A] ferocious fever dream of a thriller… Ferencik delivers an alternately terrifying and exhilarating tale.” Her work has appeared in Salon and The Boston Globe, as well as on National Public Radio.
Summary: Into the Jungle by Erica Ferencik
Into the Jungle by Erica Ferencik was an amazing book, as was The River at Night. After reading two books by this author, I am ready to pack my bags and travel the world with her. I will blindly follow her to any remote location and I desperately hope that she keeps writing this amazing books. Even though I can’t seem to find her book Girl in Ice anywhere, but I won’t be giving up. I hope she does the desert next and keeps taking readers on adventures of a lifetime.