When city people are thrust or force themselves into rural settings, disaster can strike in any number of ways. Take two girls and put them miles in the middle of nowhere and you can almost hear the strains of “Dueling Banjos”. The stage is set for the testing of friendship and stamina, for accusations and bitterness to surface like bubbles rising from a fetid swamp, for mounting irritation bleeding slowly into horror.
Neena Chandrasekhar and Josie Gordon have been best friends since freshmen year. They’ve got the friendship rings and a dislike of other people to prove it.
After years spent in each other’s company, Neena is going to college in California while timid, meeker Josie is attending college in her home town of North Carolina. The bolder Neena wants one last hurrah before they go their separate ways. So she suggests camping. This is an odd thing since neither of the girls care for camping nor took to it the way the rest of their colleagues do.
But it’s only four days. They’ve got plenty of equipment, supplies, food and water and took crash courses in what to do. Neena is certain they’ll be fine. The more timorous Josie isn’t so sure and she has a very healthy fear of getting attacked in the woods and eaten by bears. Hello muddah, hello faddah…
We are given sharp windows into both girls’s minds. Neena isn’t as confident as she appears, secretly worried that her new life in California will have her out of step with the other college attendees. Josie is trying to reconcile herself to staying behind while simultaneously envying Neena’s seeming confidence about her excursion towards the west coast.
The author’s hand is sure and steady as we delve deeper, both into the girls’s hopes, fears, resentments, and worries and a forest that is proving more and more unpredictable to travel. As they stagger along, winded and fatigued, they pull the hapless reader along, the tension mounting ever higher until we hear their voices in our heads, alternately bickering and encouraging.
An adventure tale mixed with psychological insight, this novel grips the reader until we’re reading with shallow breaths, mounting anxiety and a deepening sense of something going terribly wrong. Terrific and terrifying.