The Night Strangers begins with a bang and draws the reader into a story that cannot be denied. Unfortunately, everything that works in the first half of the book is abandoned to an inferior sub plot and finally ends in one of the most dissatisfying conclusions that I've ever read.
Chip Linton suffers extreme depression after failing to land his passenger plane on a lake. This failed attempt results in thirty-nine people dying. Bohjalian depicts an incredibly captivating and horrifying crash, and he won me over right then and there thanks to his mastery of both tension and pacing.
The Linton family moves to a new state and a new home in northern New Hampshire. A ghost story ensues, one that is smartly written and enticing. Is it the house that is haunted, or is it Chip himself? Will this haunting cost Chip his marriage, life, or perhaps even the lives of his twin daughters? I honestly couldn't wait to see what happened next. Bohjalian captured the tone of a family in distress; he delivered a suffering father; he made me care about the Lintons.
And then, sadly, Bohjalian deserted this family to focus upon a group of herbalist/witches that need the twin girls for their own nefarious intentions. The Night Strangers, at that point, became a boring, genre-driven work that failed to connect to the reader on any emotional level. The author gave far too much attention to these herbalists, their green houses, and he became too preoccupied with getting each and every herb just right. Frankly, I didn't find the herbalist the least bit interesting and their herbs were of absolutely no concern to me.
I wanted my story focusing upon the Lintons back, but Bohjalian refused. In fact, after striving so hard to make us relate to them, to see ourselves in them, to love them, he turned them into nothing more than tools to provide an insipid, heartless ending that proved to be extraordinarily inconsistent with previously established characterization.
The first half of The Night Strangers was an amazing, creepy, disturbing read that I couldn't put down. The last half of The Night Strangers was an utter contradiction of the first, and I've never felt more cheated and disappointed by an ending in all my years of reading.
~Scott William Foley, author of Andropia
I am a huge Chris Bohjalian fan and have read most of his books. As with any author with multiple works, I have enjoyed some more than others. I truly thing NIGHT STRANGERS is his weakest work to date.
There is a great set-up to this story. A plane has a bird strike right after take-off and the captain, Chip Linton, tries to make an emergency water landing, but unlike the "Miracle on the Hudson", thirty-nine people die. Based on this, Chip, who is traumatized and depressed, moves with his wife Emily and twin daughters Hallie and Garnet to a small northern New Hampshire town to begin a new life in an old Victorian house they have recently purchased. Chip finds an old door in the basement of his new home that is sealed with, coincidentally, thirty-nine bolts. Okay, this sounds like this is going to be great idea for a ghost story, right? Well, not so fast.
Enter the "Herbalists." Now, I'm sure it's difficult for authors to come up with unique and creative ideas for their stories, but this aspect of the book is what truly makes the story weak. These are the lamest "Bad Guys" I have ever read in any book, and how Emily seems to willingly turn her girls over to these people seems like an all too-convenient plot point. Emily is by far the weakest, dumbest character in the story.
All the female herbalists are named after some sort of herb or plant or flower (cute, huh?), and I'm curious as to why Bohjalian decided this couldn't also be true of the male herbalists. Are the women more "sinister" than the men are are? No, not really. The thirty-nine bolts equaling the number of people dying on Chip's flight never ends up being of any importance to the story. Also, there is one scene in this book that I found gratuitous and totally unnecessary Involving Emily and Reseda. I realize that this was supposed to make the reader understand that Reseda has the ability to read minds, but it was totally out of place and never ended up being relevant to the story in any way. It seemed like a cheap ploy to get a little sex in the book.
The best part of the story is Chip's interaction with the "ghosts." This is where the story shines and where I think Bohjalian should have concentrated more of his efforts. I also like how Bohjalian wrote Chip in the second person voice. That worked very well.
Without giving away the ending, I'll just say it was very unsatisfying for me and left some unanswered questions that genuinely do not make sense. This book was ultimately a real disappointment.
on October 24, 2011
I downloaded the free Kindle sample of this book and, even though I thought the pace was a bit slow, I enjoyed the premise and writing enough to purchase the full book. Not only did the pace never really pick up but the characters I initially liked became ridiculous at best and completely implausible at worst. The worst case was Emily. Supposedly an attorney in a high end law firm in downtown Philadelphia but, once she and her family moved to New Hampshire, she becomes a mental and emotional basket case completely incapable of recognizing the fact that a group of creepy locals are trying to manipulate her and her family. The entire story is made up of a series of incidents where Emily the lawyer and her husband, a former airline pilot, are toyed with like a couple of puppets by the locals.
The absolute worst part of the story is the climatic ending that falls with an absolute thud as the evil, manipulative, murderous cult members get away with all their misdeeds and are actually befriended by Emily and her dolt of a husband, Chip.
Do NOT, under and circumstances, waste a single penny on this rubbish. It's a tedious, aggravating story with a maddeningly silly ending. I was actually angry that I wasted so much time reading it. Please learn from my mistake and stay away from this book.
Several other reviewers gave you plotline, so I will add my two cents tempting you into this psychological novel that terrifies. I usually avoid this genre like wasps at a picnic. I am so easily frightened which gets my PTSD going.(a prominent subject in this read) However, because I have read all books Bohjalian, I went to the edge and hung on, excitedly reading his latest effort. It was so brilliant that I ended up on the cliff, dangling my feet, shivering, shaking but also acknowledging I made it through and it was worth every ounce of fear!
This book involves the occult? Witches covens? Ghosts? Demonic possession? Crazed herbalists? Derangement of the mind? Read for your own conclusions of what is going on in Bethel, N.H. and why half the town is living in terror of greenhouses. "Are you a good gardener or a bad gardener?" *evil grin*
Research into multiple subjects had to be vast. In all of Bohjalian books he roots out the subject matters, demanding of his work plausibility and passion. The prose is simply spellbinding.
Here is the potion I would concoct to describe "The Night Strangers." Pinches of Stephen King's(The Shining) John Updike's (Witches of Eastwick) William Peter Benchy's(The Exorcist)Alfred Hitchcock's (Psycho) get stirred into Bohjalian's rich imagination, creating a recipe of terror no one else could create. It is Chris's savory dish if you enjoy blood in your stew.
I dare you to read it.
on January 3, 2012
I've read Chris Bohjalian before and have enjoyed his work. So when I saw that Amazon had listed this as one of the Best Books of 2011, I thought I'd give it a go during holiday break. I was immersed in the book, and couldn't put it down because I desperately wanted to see how it ended. However, when I reached the end I felt like the structure of the book just fell apart.
Now, I'm not the type of person who demands happy endings. I usually go with the ending and the plot the way the author writes it out and when finished think about what the story was trying to be and what the author might have been trying to say.
But when I reached the end of this book, I called into question entire plot points. What was the point of Chip being haunted by the ghosts of the plane crash victims? Not a minor question as that is a major plot in the book. I was willing to forgive the endless parade of herb-named women that just got silly toward the end--and maybe it was because I read the book in 2 days that it just seemed silly. I was willing to overlook as minor the fact that I would have thought an educated attorney like Emily would see through the "cult-like" group who had befriended her and at least get a second opinion (as she was willing to do with one of the herbal-psychiatrists). And the kids just fell for hanging out with a bunch of grandmotherly types who wanted to change their names and ingratiate them into their club?
I kept wondering what the time period for this book was supposed to be. There are lots of convenient contrivances inserted to try to explain why this family is so isolated: dysfunctional paternal side of the family, dead maternal side of the family, moving far away from friends and old life, the remoteness of Bethel that leads to poor cell phone service.
It just was all too much in the end.
Chris Bohjalian is a popular American novelist whose books have explored several genres. In his latest and thirteenth published work NIGHT STRANGERS he tries out a blend of psychological suspense and ghost/horror story with mixed results.
The protagonist of NIGHT STRANGERS is Chip a fortyish married man formerly employed as a commercial pilot. Chip's last flight became tragic when his plane ran into a flock of birds forcing him in to dramatic water landing that almost worked but because of some unforeseen circumstances ended badly and with the deaths of the majority of his passengers. In the aftermath of the accident Chip battles post traumatic stress syndrome as well as intense scrutiney of his actions. He, his attorney wife Emily and their ten year old twin daughters leave a comfortable home in an upscale Philadelphia suburb to start a new life in a three story Victorian home in Northern New Hampshire. Unfortunately Chip's problems increase after the move. Some of his deceased plane passengers have attached themselves to him and follow along to the new location while making increasingly dangerous demands on Chip. The newly purchased house has a sad history and the family keeps finding bizarre articles left around by the previous owners. And most of the townspeople that befriend the family seem to have an unhealthy obsession with gardening and everything concerning Chip's ten year old daughters.
NIGHT STRANGERS is decently written though I found it quite derivative of other horror stories most noticeably ROSEMARY'S BABY and THE SHINING. Bohjalian employs the second person voice for the portions of the novel told from Chip's mentally mixed up viewpoint and though I often find that type of narrative voice annoying it works in this case particularly in the disturbing ending. NIGHT STRANGERS will likely appeal to fans of spooky psychological suspense but is not particularly original or memorable.
on October 21, 2011
The premise of the story -- a pilot and a plane crash that kills 39 people, then a move to a new house that has a mysterious door with 39 bolts -- sounds intriguing and I was so excited to read it. The idea of the pilot being haunted by the deaths of these passengers has so many elements it can explore and I couldn't wait to see how the "ghosts" manifested into the overall storyline. However, this part of the story seems to fall to the wayside as Bohjalian shifts to other characters and their fascination with twins and herbs. The only parts of the book I enjoyed were the parts about Chip, which were written in the second person voice. This style works for me, as Tom Robbins has done it masterfully, but others might be bothered by it.
The book could be compelling and create a grander storyline than it actually does, instead going for a campy climax. I was very disappointed, having read all of Bohjalian's books and always finding the endings satisfying. In this case, I was reading as fast as I could just to get it out of my hands.
on June 5, 2012
Chris Bohjalian creates a claustrophobic atmosphere in this novel. That's about the best you can say. The story is a complicated plot and is meant to be character driven,yet is overwhelmed by the ruminations of one of the main characters, the seemingly doomed Chip, an airline pilot overcome by a tragic accident in which his plane goes down and all the passengers, but for 10, are killed. Chip's voice is an insistent one, in fact, we relive the plane crash over and over and over, ad nauseum, until you just start to zone out and skip over those parts. In addition, the narration of the crash is changed to the second person form, which really, to this reader at least, doesn't add much immediacy to the story, and is completely intrusive and aggravating, like a car alarm that you just can't tune out or turn off.
This novel has a cast of thousands, you are drowning in actors here. Yet the characters with the most potential, Reseda,Emily, and the girls, are sketchily drawn, even though much time is taken up with their entries into the story. They are bland, with scarcely much that is unique to say about themselves, not plucky, not engaging, simply, as in, for example, Reseda's case, smugly placed to move the action along.
At the same time, there are odd little unresolved moments, some sexy time between two of the main characters, 39 bolts on the basement door, equaling the number of crash victims, strange wallpaper, etc. Bits and pieces of detail that rival Stephen King's artifice, yet are just placed there, as if to say, "look what I did there, I bet you didn't expect that!" None of these details are ever resolved, nor do they contribute to the plot, they're just there, as if Mr. B's magic author wand spat out some sparkle for the audience to applaud.
In fact, that's what bugs me the most about this book. I feel taken advantage of, and condescended to. "Dear reader:" the novelist seems to say, "I will direct this movie as I see fit, and if you can follow along, then goody for you." There is no space for the reader to feel intrigued, sucked into the mysteries of the story, or seduced by a contrary, eccentric character here or there; it's all overexplained, the clues are patently obvious and the writer seems almost to greet the reader with a smug tone, as if to make sure that we see EVERY footprint, EVERY ghostly appearance, EVERY clue that will lead us down the lane to the final plot twist, a CB specialty, or so I hear. In short, it's so complacently baroque that by the time you've reached the end, after a seemingly inexhaustible recitation of the plane's final moments again and again, you don't really give a crap about whatever twisty and turny denouement CB has in store for you. And for all that, it's just as well, for the ending is as ungenerous as the rest of the book.
No surprise, I suppose, after all.
on November 27, 2011
There were mixed reviews for this novel, but since I love Chris Bohjalian, I thought I'd give it a shot. It was like reading the best of Stephen King (particularly but not exclusively "The Shining")mixed together with the Bruce Willis movie "The 6th Sense" and good old fashion New England folklore. After a pilot crashes his plane into Lake Champlain, killing 39 passengers, his wife and twin daughters move to New Hampshire to start anew. Unfortunately, their demons follow them, as the pilot sees ghosts of the people who perished on his plane. Or does he? Is it just post-traumatic stress, or perhaps survivor's guilt, or is he having a nervous breakdown? What about the other strange happenings in this town, including the tragedy that occurred so long ago in the house they just recently purchased? And what is up with the "herbalists" in this sleepy New England town who have taken such an interest in the pilot's twin daughters? Each page reveals a piece of the puzzle, until you begin to see the whole picture. As the novel builds to a crescendo, you want to continue reading to discover if you were right all along. The ending will leave you breathless, and the characters will stay with you for days. The only downside was I didn't want to put it down, but I found I was too scared to read it too late at night. A book worth reading.
on March 1, 2012
I'm a true fan of Mr. Bohjalian. I really respected that this novel went in new, unfamiliar directions from his previous plots. The premise is extremely compelling.
After parts 1 & 2 though, it rapidly deteriorates. The subplot takes over and becomes mired down in extreme details of the antagonists' backstory.
Beyond that, the ending is 100% DREADFUL. I don't expect to write my own ending and I have no interest in rom-com, fairy-tale endings, but the conclusion felt contrived and ugly. This is a paranormal, ghost-driven, cult-esque novel that's beautifully written, but where the plot-train goes off the tracks. It is not a happy ending, friends. Looking forward to his next novel to return to previous form...