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Featured in the New York Times Book Review Summer Reading Guide * A Crime by the Book “Most Anticipated” Novel * Featured in the New York Post Summer Round Up * Starred Publishers Weekly Review * A Publishers Weekly “Big Summer Books” * A Kirkus Reviews “Creepy Thrillers” Pick

In this pulse-pounding thriller from the author of the “haunting, twisting thrill ride” (Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author) The River at Night, a young woman leaves behind everything she knows to take on the Bolivian jungle, but her excursion abroad quickly turns into a fight for her life.

Lily Bushwold thought she’d found the antidote to endless foster care and group homes: a teaching job in Cochabamba, Bolivia. As soon as she could steal enough cash for the plane, she was on it.

When the gig falls through and Lily stays in Bolivia, she finds bonding with other broke, rudderless girls at the local hostel isn’t the life she wants either. Tired of hustling and already world-weary, crazy love 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? Love-struck 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.

Primal, gripping, and terrifying, Into the Jungle features Erica Ferencik’s signature “visceral, white-knuckle” (Entertainment Weekly) prose that will sink its fangs into you and not let go.

This reader’s guide for Into the Jungle includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Lily Bushwold thought she’d found the antidote to endless foster care and group homes: a teaching job in Cochabamba, Bolivia. As soon as she could steal enough cash for the plane, she was on it.

But when the gig falls through and Lily stays in Bolivia, she finds bonding with other broke, rudderless girls at the local hostel isn’t the life she wants either. Tired of hustling and already world-weary, crazy love finds her in the form she least expects: Omar, a savvy, handsome local man who’s 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 and decides to go back, love-struck Lily goes along, following Omar into a 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.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. At the beginning of Into the Jungle, Lily describes herself as “a half-starved, high-strung wild child” (page 7). What were your initial impressions of Lily? Did you like her? Why or why not? What factors contributed to Lily’s wild nature?

2. Discuss the epigraph that begins Into the Jungle. Why do you think Ferencik choose to include it? How does it frame your understanding of the narrative? Who were the shamans that you encountered in Into the Jungle? How did they use their powers? What do you think makes a shaman worthy of the title?

3. Describe Omar. Would you have responded to his initial overture? Why does Lily? When Omar shows up at the Versailles the day after meeting Lily as promised, Lily says that it was “just a simple promise kept, but it gleamed and sparkled” (page 27). Explain her reaction. Even though Omar has shown himself to be trustworthy, Lily initially lies to him about her background. Why do you think she does so? What did you think of her lies?

4. Although Lily has been told that life in the jungle is hard and unforgiving, she “had begun to conjure some fairy-tale magical life under the stars in ‘nature,’ away from the filth and noise of the city” (page 43). Compare Lily’s imaginings of life in the jungle with the reality. How does she first react to life in Ayachero? What is her day-to-day life like and what challenges does she face? Why does she decide to go despite the warnings that she receives? What would you do if you were in her position?

5. Early in the novel, Lily muses, “Sex was nothing, or it was a violence, a currency; love a ruse” (page 31). What did you think of Lily’s views of love? Do her thoughts on sex and love evolve throughout the novel? If so, how and why?

6. When Lily first sees the Frannies, she is “struck by how American [their wave] looked and felt” (page 83) and wonders whether she is as brash and loud as she finds them. Were you surprised by Lily’s reaction to them? Why or why not? Who are the Frannies and what are they doing in the jungle? FrannyB describes the jungle as a “brutal place” (page 84). Compare her view of the jungle to that of Lily and Omar. How and why do their perspectives differ?

7. Omar questions Lily’s desire to know “everything,” saying, “You think knowing everything is good, Lily. Is that an American thing?” (page 97). How does Omar’s view on knowledge vary from Lily’s? Why does Omar see withholding information as an act of protection? Do you agree with his perspective? Why or why not? Are there other notable cultural differences between the two of them? What do the people of Ayachero initially think of Lily?

8. Lily describes putting on her backpack as “a move that always comforted me” (page 76). Why does this action give her a sense of security? How does her backpack serve as a talisman? Do you have any objects in your life that provide you with a sense of comfort? What are they and why?

9. For God’s Sake plays an important role in the lives of many in the jungle. Who is he and how did he come to receive his name? For God’s Sake tells Lily, “sometimes I feel like I am the devil to wear four faces” (page 197). What are those “four faces” and why does For God’s Sake feel he needs to occupy each of the roles? How do each of the different groups he interacts with view him? What did you think of him and why?

10. Many of the inhabitants of Ayachero fear Beya. Discuss some of the stories that they share about her. Why is she shrouded in so much mystery? What did you think of Beya when you first encountered her? How did the mythology surrounding the woman compare with the reality of who she was? Lily confesses that “Beya obsessed me” (page 138). Why is she fascinated with Beya? Can you think of any similarities between the two women? Did you agree with Lily’s decision to go into the jungle to seek her out? Explain your answer.

11. Lily says, “I couldn’t remember having a more joyous day in Ayachero” (page 190) when recounting the afternoon that she spent working with many of the villagers to repair netting with her newly acquired sewing machine. What makes the day so special to Lily? Why do you think that Lily derives so much pleasure from working? Describe the ways in which her views on work evolve throughout the novel.

12. Omar writes that, although it may sound contradictory, he “believe[s] the only way to save the jungle is bringing people from all over the world to see it” (page 36). What threats does the jungle face? Why does Omar think that showing the jungle to outsiders may encourage more conservation? What do you think? How would you go about raising awareness for the need to conserve the jungle?

13. After Lily has lived in Ayachero for six months, Dona Antonia gives her a bowl of embers, explaining that it is “the fire of the hearth. The jenecheru. It’s something offered to a new family member” (pages 228-29). What prompts Dona Antonia to give this gift to Lily when she does? Describe Dona Antonia’s treatment of Lily when the two women first meet. What reasons does Dona Antonia have for being distrustful of Lily? Did you think that Dona Antonia’s treatment of Lily was fair? Why or why not?

14. When Omar first attempts to appeal to Splitfoot, the chief of the Tatinga tribe, using their shared history, Splitfoot dismisses him, saying, “That was before you became a white man, as far as I can tell” (page 275). Explain Splitfoot’s statement. Why does he view Omar’s time outside of the jungle negatively? What are some of the views that Splitfoot and the rest of his tribe hold? How do the Ayachero villagers view them?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. One of the items that Lily carries in the backpack that she takes everywhere is a worn-out copy of Charlotte’s Web that she stole from her last group home. She says, “I had no explanation for why this little pig’s life saved by the efforts of the spider who really loved him tore my guts out. I only knew that the story had gotten to me . . . but also gave me hope that I could—someday—overcome my wordless sorrow” (page 12). If you haven’t read Charlotte’s Web, do so and discuss it with your book club. Why do you think the book resonated with Lily? Are there any books from your childhood that have stuck with you? If so, tell your book club about them and consider having a childhood classic themed book club meeting.

2. While waiting for Omar in the jungle heat, Lily “thought of the parts of America I missed: Dairy Queen, the movies, candy bars, Cheerios, malls, scented soap, libraries, fall leaves, snow; things Omar had never seen, had no interest in seeing” (page 2). Have you ever been far away from your native home? Did you miss anything specific? If you haven’t, are there particular parts of your home that you love and think you would be nostalgic for? What are they? Share some of your favorite things about your birthplace with your book club. What is it about these things that you love?

3. When Lily visits the Frannies, FrannyB offers Lily her copies of books by Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë. FrannyB explains that “A’s a big fan of that Victorian stuff . . . she’s a bit of a romantic, so . . .” (page 173). Why do you think FrannyA took those particular books with her? If you were moving to a distant location and could only take three or four books, what would you take with you and why?

4. To learn more about Erica Ferencik, request that she visit your book club, read about her other writings, and more, visit her official site at
Photograph by Kate Hannon

Erica Ferencik is a graduate of the MFA program in creative writing at Boston University. Her work has appeared in Salon and The Boston Globe, as well as on NPR. Find out more on her website and follow her on Twitter @EricaFerencik. She is the author of The River at Night, Into the Jungle, and Girl in Ice.

"Erica Ferencik paints a picture of a jungle ripe with the amorality of nature, where dropping one’s guard or losing focus means death from any number of sources... As the greenery flowers and bursts and rots from within so, too, does the prose.”

– The New York Times Book Review

"Gripping, breathtaking, and exquisitely told—Into The Jungle pulls you into another world, returning you forever transformed."

– Wendy Walker, USA Today bestselling author of The Night Before

“I read Erica Ferencik’s Into the Jungle in one breathless sitting and when I finished, I wanted to stand up and cheer. Not only for Lily Bushwold’s amazing resilience and courage in the face of unimaginable hardships and challenges, but most of all, for Ferencik’s astonishing storytelling ability. Rich, raw, and real, Into the Jungle is a rip-roaring adventure like nothing I’ve read, with a heroine readers won’t soon forget. Highly recommended!” 

– Karen Dionne, international bestselling author of The Marsh King's Daughter

"Lush, arresting, and uniquely terrifying, Into the Jungle is an unforgettable story of love and survival set in a Bolivian jungle so vividly rendered that you can practically hear the howler monkeys."

– Kathleen Barber, author of Are You Sleeping

"Riveting, real, and drenched in adventure and magic, Into the Jungle transports the reader to a wet, lush world of jaguars and anacondas, shamans and poachers, terror and wonder. The action is non-stop, the characters unforgettable, and Erica Ferencik's prose dazzles. I couldn't put it down!"

– Sy Montgomery, National Book Award finalist of The Soul of an Octopus

“Relentless and frightening, Into the Jungle hurtles us down a treacherous river of piranhas and poisonous snakes into the strange, terrifying Bolivian jungle. A hypnotic, violent, unsparing portrayal of a naïve young American woman’s torturous coming-of-age in the unforgiving Amazon wilderness. A nail-biter."

– USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author A.J. Banner

"Into the Jungle nails with great verve the rigors and joy of travel into the uncharted depths of South America's rainforest and the spiritual lives of its people. Erica Ferencik has written a gem of a book. I couldn't put it down." 

– Scott Wallace, bestselling author of The Unconquered: In Search of Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes

"Take a deep breath—Into the Jungle is a vivid plunge into a wondrous and eerie world. Gorgeously written, richly atmospheric, and absolutely enthralling."

– Taylor Adams, international bestselling author of No Exit

"From page one, I was completely under the spell of Erica's prose. Her protagonist, Lily, is instantly compelling--tough, wounded, brave, terrified, lost, and--once she enters the jungle--found, to her surprise. Like the jungle of the title, the moment you step into Erica's novel, it closes around you and demands that you pay attention. I feel lucky to be among the very first readers of Into the Jungle, and I can't wait to sing its praises to anyone who will listen!"

– Jamey Bradbury, author of The Wild Inside

“[A] ferocious fever dream of a thriller… Ferencik delivers an alternately terrifying and exhilarating tale.”

– Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A death-defying Bolivian adventure in the primordial forest… The setting of Ferencik's second female-driven adventure thriller is hair-raisingly vivid... The closest thing to an actual hell ride you'll ever experience (one hopes.) Thrilling, bloody, and ferocious.”

– Kirkus Reviews

"Into the Jungle is a haunting and authoritative exploration of the power and limitations of love--not only between two people, but between individuals and communities, and the wild and unpredictable earth they inhabit. Compulsively readable, this book takes you deep into the fierce and fragile Amazon, and you'll be riveted till the very end.”

– Katrin Schumann, bestselling author of The Forgotten Hours

"Wild and ferocious and incredibly brave! The talented Erica Ferencik ventures into the deepest recesses of passion, fear, and primal survival.  This tale of resilience and power will haunt and inspire you— and sometimes terrify you. A complete tour de force and rivetingly compelling, this dark adventure reveals the astonishing risks people take for love."

– Hank Phillippi Ryan, national bestselling author of Trust Me

Into the Jungle is a vivid, terrifying fever dream. Erica Ferencik has imagined the Amazon rain forest as a psychological, physical and moral testing ground for outcast Lily Bushwold—a survivor longing for love and purpose in Bolivia. This gripping thriller will awaken readers to the wonders and perils of the world’s most mysterious forest.” 

– Chris Feliciano Arnold, author of The Third Bank of the River: Power and Survival in the Twenty-First Century Amazon

”With its fascinating characters and its unique setting--a steaming, chattering, enchanted world of rich green where darkness lures beneath the surface--this is not just any story. It is a journey into the heart of the jungle and the brutal, life-altering wisdom that can be found there. I find this book as mesmerising as the gaze of an acaonda. ”


– Caroline Eriksson, author of The Watcher

"A compelling read. The author pulls you into her narrator's gorgeous but ominous world. You can't stop reading until you have finished the last page long after everyone else's lights are out."

– Holly FitzGerald, author of Ruthless River

"I was lured in, caught off guard, and ensnared by Lily and Omar, their love story, and their journey deep into the pulsing heart of Bolivia and the Amazon. The menacing pace and ripe, dripping prose made every brush with danger—the two-, four-, six-, and eight-legged variety; the whispering, biting, slithering kind—that much more enthralling. I spent hours balled up and tense, hunched over every word, deliciously creeped out, and finally out for blood. Stay alert: You won’t want to miss one thrilling detail of Into The Jungle."

– Susan Bernhard, author of Winter Loon

"Absolutely intense! Into the Jungle plunges the reader deep into the heart of the Amazon in an adventure as lush and layered as the foliage itself. An extraordinary book with an unusual love story at its center, you'll be on the edge of your seat until the very last word."



– Crystal King, author of The Chef's Secret and Feast of Sorrow, long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

"There is magic in these pages. Ferencik takes you on an intense journey deep into the Bolivian jungle in a thrilling saga full of vibrant, memorable characters and electrifies you with the nerve-jangling challenges they face. You will smell the creeping moss and feel the eyes of the jungle upon you. Transformative and vivid."

– Joanna Schaffhausen, author of No Mercy

"At its heart this is a love story between Lily and Omar whose unlikely bond lasts through terrifying obstacles and life-threatening challenges in the blistering heat of the Bolivian jungle. The magic and menace of the Amazon is brought to life by Erica Ferencik’s lush prose as Lily fights gargantuan spiders, screeching howler monkeys, killer pigs, and her own past demons in an alien atmosphere. But this novel also skillfully reveals how the collision of poachers with the inhabitants of a complex ecosystem endangers the way of life and livelihoods of native communities. Gripping, riveting, and absolutely heart-racing, Into the Jungle demonstrates love’s endurance and its ability to build strength and astonishing resilience."

– Marjan Kamali, author of The Stationary Shop

"Under the spell of Ferencik’s stunning powers of description, you’ll find yourself outfitting your reading nook with mosquito netting and a machete. This portrait of female strength and guile in the face of the unfamiliar, the exhilarating, and the dangerous is utterly convincing. Like all great adventure stories, it’s about making a home in a beautiful, bewildering, and sometimes hostile world. A thrilling novel."


– Andy Mozina, author of Contrary Motion and The Women Were Leaving the Men

"Packed with excitement and adventure, this is a riveting tale of a true life adventure in the steaming jungles of the Amazon. You won't be able to turn the pages fast enough." 

– Dr. Paul Beaver, Director of Amazonia Expeditions and author of Diary of an Amazon Jungle Guide

"A surging thriller . . . helmed by a tenacious, resourceful woman. The book teems with a heavy-aired fecundity, giving entry to a primordial state that moves deeper into the mind as it moves deeper into the jungle.”

– The Boston Globe

"Author Erica Ferencik brings readers a love story that is anything but ordinary. The main characters are literally worlds apart, and a danger-filled jungle is not your usual backdrop for romance. Ferencik’s writing style is fast-paced and suspenseful, making readers impatient to turn the page and find out what happens next. She herself spent some time in the Peruvian jungle where she did research for this book, and these experiences lend great authenticity to her narrative."

– Bookreporter

Praise for The River at Night

“A gal-pal vacation goes over the falls and into hell. You won’t put it down.”

– Kirkus Reviews

“[An] adrenaline rush of a novel.”

– Publishers Weekly

"The River at Night is both a haunting, twisting thrill-ride through the Maine wilderness, and a story of friendship, humanity, and the will to survive. Terrifyingly real and impossible to put down."

– New York Times bestselling author Megan Miranda

"Raw, relentless and heart-poundingly real, this book knocked me off my feet like a river in spate."

– New York Times bestselling author Ruth Ware

"A twisting, turning thrill ride of a novel, The River at Night will sweep you along, pull you under and not let you come up for air until you’ve turned the last page.  Erica Ferencik expertly captures the wild, untouched Maine landscape and the ferocity of both nature and humankind.”    

– New York Times bestselling author Jennifer McMahon

"Lost in the brutal Maine wilderness, four women struggle to survive, testing the boundaries of their friendship and the limitations of their own strength and mortality.  Terrifying and wholly visceral, The River at Night will leave you gasping, your heart racing, eyes peering over your shoulder to see what follows from behind.  Take a deep breath before you begin because it’s the last you’ll have until you’re through."  

– New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mary Kubica

"The River at Night is a dark, twisting, unrelenting thriller that kept me frantically turning the pages well into the night. Erica Ferencik skillfully combines jolting plot twists, lyrical prose, and a beautifully brutal setting, cementing The River at Night as my favorite debut novel of the year."

– New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf

“With a title like The River at Night, the plot had to be swift and twisting, yet what enraptured me completely was Wini's bigger triumph over the wilderness of the heart, a vivid journey amplified by a deeply textured depiction of both the devastating and glorious ways that true friendship can tear us down ... and build us back up again. Ferencik's writing pulses with a dangerous energy akin to the river she depicts.”

– New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Vicki Pettersson

The River at Night is a white water thrill ride to be sure. But it’s more than than that. Erica Ferencik digs deep into friendship, midlife angst, and how we can surprise ourselves when the worst things happen. Wini is a character I can imagine myself knowing, sharing secrets over coffee. I pulled for her the whole way, through all the rapids, all the bends and twists of this terrific debut.” 

– New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger

"Erica Ferencik's The River at Night is a high-octane debut, a thriller that combines the watery adventure of Deliverance with the twisting psychological suspense of Lisa Unger. This is a taut, tense novel that rushes like the fastest rapids. Grab a hold now and enjoy the ride!"

– Bestselling author David Bell

"In the tradition of James Dickey’s Deliverance, this exciting survival tale hooks from the first page."

– Library Journal

"This novel quickly becomes a dark, more-twisted-than-the-river tale of secrets as night falls in the wilderness."

– Marie Claire

“Author Erica Ferencik’s storytelling [is]…brutally effective…hurtling River’s harrowing narrative along in a visceral, white-knuckle rush.”

– Entertainment Weekly

“[A] ferocious fever dream of a thriller… Ferencik delivers an alternately terrifying and exhilarating tale.”

– Publishers Weekly, starred review

More books from this author: Erica Ferencik