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by Erica Ferencik
Gallery, April 2019
320 pages
ISBN: 1501168924

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This book is partly adventure story, partly thriller. The first half leans more to the former, and as the pace picks up, the final pages put it clearly in the realm of the latter. Lily is still a teenager, but she's been on her own for some time when she meets Omar in a South American bar. They quickly fall in love, so when Omar is called to return to his remote village in the Amazon, Lily goes along as his wife. Ferencik writes evocatively of both squalid city life and the hard life cut out of the rainforest. These early pages read almost like a memoir of an American adjusting to the challenges of an isolated jungle existence. Because of the beauty of Ferencik's writing, the reader feels, hears, sees and even tastes Lily's new reality, keeping the book from being derivative.

After depositing her in the midst of his extended family, Omar must go on weeks-long hunts with the able-bodied men to provide for the villagers. Lily is allowed to join in on one of the hunts, a trip which provides additional scope for the atmosphere of the rainforest to be developed. Much happens while he is gone near the end of Lily's pregnancy, and the pace of the book jumps into overdrive as the plot moves from travelogue to survival thriller.

There are both caricatures and characters in the book. Communal villagers, native tribesmen, white hunters, missionaries, and even a witch doctor populate its pages with color and authenticity. The jungle itself is almost a character, as the reader can hear its sounds, feel its dense air, and smell its unique inhabitants. Ferencik's language introduces the jungle to us: "…trees tangled riotously, inhaling and exhaling through giant leafy lungs." The events in this book could have taken place nowhere else but in the Amazon. They would require a good dose of suspension of disbelief in any other setting, but given the nature of the jungle that Ferencik makes so clear, they seem entirely plausible.

INTO THE JUNGLE is a book for readers who like to be transported to alien settings, but perhaps not for those who want every page to sizzle with excitement. The book is a slow burn as we come to know Lily and experience her new surroundings with her. There is plenty of action as the menaces, both human and animal, take shape, but this action is immersed within a well-created setting and intensifies as the book draws to a close. This is Ferencik's second thriller, after 2017's THE RIVER AT NIGHT, and she has proven herself as a world-builder once again. I can't wait to see where she takes us in her third novel.

§ Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in rural Wyoming.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, April 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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