Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Lost Night

The Lost Night: A Daughter's Search for the Truth of Her Father's Murder by Rachel Howard was originally published in 2005. My paperback copy has 273 pages. The Lost Night is a memoir of Howard's life, not a true crime account, although the murder of Howard's father obviously plays a pivotal role in her life. Howard's early life already had step-parent issues before her father was murdered when she was ten. Obviously the murder affected her life even though she could only remember vague details, and those details were through the eyes of a child. This is a compelling look at how the child of a murder victim manages to cope. If you enjoy memoirs, you will appreciate Howard's book. If you are looking for a true crime novel, this may not be to your tastes. The murder is never solved. The focus of the book, even when Howard is researching her father's murder, is Howard's personal growth.
Very Highly Recommended

From Publishers Weekly
In 1986, when the author was 10, her father was stabbed while sleeping next to his third wife; his murder remains unsolved. After years of pretending the memories of that night haven't affected her, and about to get married and enter a new phase of life, Howard sets out to untangle what she and her family can recall of her father's life and death. This book is not an attempt at vengeance but rather a profoundly personal account of a California Central Valley childhood defined by chaotic family life. Howard's parents divorced when she was very young, and both subsequently remarried, with Howard repeatedly pulled into new versions of "family" that replaced—but never explained the demise of—the old ones. It's a testament to her strength that she was finally able to extract herself from this turmoil and make a life of her own (she now writes for the San Francisco Chronicle). Howard's desire to understand her past (particularly the murder) will leave readers sympathetic and understanding of the story's sometimes wandering nature. This is a poignant account of the lifelong effects violence and tragedy can have on an individual and a family. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

"I saw my father clutching his throat, trying to speak.
That image taunted me as I walked into the Merced County Sheriff's Department one sweltering August day. I'd come to meet with the detectives assigned to my father's murder, though discussing his death with anyone, let alone the authorities, still made my throat constrict and my right eye twitch. Whenever anyone asked about my father, I replied, in a flat, neutral voice, "My father was murdered." I hoped to stop the conversation cold, and usually I succeeded. But sometimes the questions persisted. How old were you? I was ten. God, I'm sorry, can I ask what happened?" pg. 1

"The only facts I held with certainty were these: At about three thirty a.m. on June 22, 1986, someone entered, through an unlocked sliding-glass door, my father's house on the outskirts of the central California farming town where he had grown up. The intruder took a knife from the kitchen and stabbed my father as he lay sleeping next to his third wife. He was pronounced dead at the hospital an hour later. He was thirty-two years old, a handsome, laid-back guy who had loved weight lifting and the Three Stooges and Rod Stewart songs, and who seemed to have no enemies. No one was ever charged with the crime." pg. 2

"The story of my father's death was half complete, because I'd been too afraid of what I might remember, and because I hadn't lived the end of it. Now I was ready, and I had a guess as to why....
I wrote in an ecstatic scrawl in my journal the next day, 'I've entered a new era. One in which the murder is past - or almost.' Was I ready to face my father's murder because I was getting married, or was I ready to get married because I'd begun to examine the murder? I only knew the two were connected, and that the need to learn all that I could about my father's death now felt urgent." pg. 2-3

"It takes a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to the moonlight pouring through the living room window. I make out our powder-blue curtains first, slate gray against the darkness, and as the rest of the view falls into place, I see the house is empty and still. Then I look down the hallway, and what I find there sears itself upon my brain: huge, dark pools in the carpet, like giant grape Kool-Aid spills. Bigger around than basketballs, sticky wet and black in the colorless night. As I stare at them and remember Bobby's nonsensical words about shaving, I know at once that they are pools of blood.
The blood is a flash, a Polaroid snapshot of a shadowy moment, and the next ten minutes come in flashes too, murky images captured and set aside to develop in slow motion. In a flash, I'm at the open door of Dad's bedroom. Dad is standing bare-chested, deathly white, holding his throat, looking into my eyes and mouthing something I can't understand. In a flash, the door slams in my face, and I hear Sherrie shout 'I'm calling 911.'
It feels like I stare at that closed door a long time. I don't know if I try the handle, but if I do, it's locked. I don't know how I step around the blood, how I decide to go back into my bedroom, how it is that I eventually walk into the living room and quietly take a seat on the couch next to Bobby. I don't know who turned the lamp on, but the light is throwing just enough illumination around the room to make the shadows look that much deeper. And I don't know how it is that Bobby and I are both now fully dressed. The biggest mystery of all, though, is how Bobby knows someone has tried to kill my father." pg. 7-8

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