Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Night Country

The Night Country by Stewart O'Nan was originally published in 2003. My hardcover copy has 229 pages. This is a ghost story, but the ghosts, the three teens - Marco, Toe, and Danielle - who died a year ago in the accident the story hinges on, are simply observers of the living. Marco is the narrator. The three people whose actions they follow closely are Tim, the only unharmed survivor of the crash, Brookes, the cop who was first on the crash scene, and Kyle's mom, the mother of the brain-damaged teen. O'Nan's descriptions are, as usual, exquisite, and he sets the tone perfectly. Rating: 5

Synopsis from cover:
At midnight on Halloween in a cloistered New England suburb, a car carrying five teenagers leaves a winding road and slams into a tree, killing three of them. One escapes unharmed, another suffers severe brain damage. A year later, summoned by the memories of those closest to them, the three who died come back on a last chilling mission among the living.

A strange and unsettling ghost story in the tradition of Ray Bradbury and Shirley Jackson, The Night Country creeps through the leaf-strewn streets and quiet cul-de-sacs of a bedroom community, reaching into the desperately connected yet isolated lives of three people changed forever by the accident: Tim, who survived intact but lost everything; Brooks, the cop whose guilty secret has destroyed his life; and Kyle's mom, trying to love the new son the doctors returned to her. As the day wanes and darkness falls, one of them puts a terrible plan into effect, and they find themselves caught by a collision of need and desire, watched over by the knowing ghosts.

Macabre and moving, The Night Country elevates every small town's bad high school crash into myth, finding the deeper human truth beneath a shared and very American tragedy. Stewart O'Nan once again gives us an intimate look at people trying to hold onto hope, and at the consequences when they fail.

"Come, do you hear it? The wind - murmuring in the eaves, scouring the bare trees. How it howls, almost musical, a harmony of old moans." opening sentences

"Never mind that it's all gone, the white picket fences easy-to-clean vinyl, the friendship quilts stitched in the Dominican, this is still New England, garden-green, veined with black rivers and massacres." pg. 4

"Look around now. Do you remember any of us? Your face has changed; ours are the same, frozen in yearbook photos in the local papers, nudged up against the schoolboard news, the football scores, the library booksale. One week we're history, martyred gods, then forgotten." pg. 5

"There's a reason we call on you, why this night comes again and again, bad dream within a dream. You think it's torture but you know it's justice. You know the reason. You're the lucky one, remember? You live." pg. 7

"It's not so much that he wants to die as not exist like this anymore." pg. 26

"Like a five-year-old, he loves fast food and cartoons. He sleeps under life-sized pictures of people he doesn't know, among CDs and video games he no longer plays." pg. 35

"He thinks he's doing it for her, for us. How do you convince someone they're wrong about the only thing in the world they're sure of?" pg. 44

"We stand around him like doctors, like angels, waiting for the dreams to begin, the sirens and screaming tires, the night country flying in his headlights as we chase him, racing to the tree. It might seem like revenge, except it's not ours. Brookes is easy to haunt. We don't have to bring him nightmares. He has his own." pg. 99


Anonymous said...

oh my STARS this looks beyond good. I have to see if my library has it RIGHT NOW

samantha.1020 said...

This sounds so good and I've never read anything by this author. I'm going to have to add this to the TBR list. Great review!

Lori L said...

It really is an excellent novel.