Customer Reviews: The Lost Night: A Daughter's Search for the Truth of Her Father's Murder
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VINE VOICEon October 23, 2005
This book is much more memoir than a "true crime" or crime investigation book. It does center itself around the author's father's murder when she was 10, but from there, it goes on to tell very well how this event affected both her life and the life of her family and extended family. I got a strong feel for the parts of California she was writing about, and for her father's large family and how they dealt with his death in their own ways.

The book also examines the issue of memory---how memory is not a set-in-stone thing---how different people remember things differently, and we can feel very sure we know how something happened, and another person is very sure it happened differently.

Some might feel unsatisfied that the murder is not solved in these pages, but I was not. That was never really the point here. This is an examination of how murder affects a family, and of the time and place and people that set up the scene. The author leaves us free to form our own opinion as to what happened, and she also is amazingly free with writing about her own changes of perspective and doubts about her feelings about the past. She is a skilled writer and sounds like a strong, caring person. I thank her for this book.
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on August 25, 2005
For those who love the memoir, THE LOST NIGHT is not to be missed. After I had picked the book up I found Rachel Howard's website and saw where she was planning/writing a novel. I have already subscribed to the RSS feed of her site so I can read her postings and find out when this novel is published. Why so excited about an unwritten novel? Read this memoir - her first book - and you'll know why. It reads like fiction and kept me glued to the pages - I read it through in two nights. To recount such a painful time in her life (her father was murdered when she was 10) with such range of emotions, and Rachel's path to putting her era of tragedy behind her makes for powerful reading. I laughed, I was moved, I was kept in suspense, I marveled at the descriptions of those involved and was brought into her world with an ease that defies the fact that this is her first book. She is quite a talent. I look forward to her work in the future as much as any new author in years. This is a can't miss memoir and an easy five-star pick.
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on October 7, 2005
I couldn't agree more with Mr. Donovan's review..ditto for me. Best book I've read in a long time. I stood at the table from which I picked the book up to browse and was hooked by the third page and stood there reading for a half hour oblivious to my surroundings. There was no way I was leaving the book store without purchasing this gem of a book. I didn't know about the novel-I will most certainly keep a keen eye out for that. She's awesome. I was completely engrossed from the start! I love it when I feel that way about a book. I'm a Rachel Howard doubt about that.

You must check it out!
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on February 27, 2006
Lost and Found - a past reclaimed

I finished Rachel Howard's "the lost night" at 3 this morning. From the minute I cracked its spine, the pages turned themselves, inviting me to ignore every routine chore of mine: dirty dishes, daily exercise, even meals (though I did manage to go to work and feed the cat).

Masterfully written, the book tells a riveting story of the murder of Rachel's father when she was only 10 years old. How she handled the loss of this beloved man, her protector and playpal, is a glimpse into how children cope with tragedy of this magnitude. The experience retrospectively defined Rachel, her relationship with her family and also with her stepmother Sherry, her father's third wife when he was murdered. Rachel, the product of divorce, was spending a few summer weeks at her father's home during this time. She was witness to his last waking minutes and remembered details that would replay themselves with increasing vividness as time went by.

But memory is elusive...and selective. The author comes to realize that her memories were circumscribed by the limited frame-of-reference of a young life.

What I found so compelling here is the child's perspective. I have read (and probably own!) just about every true-crime/courtroom/forensic book that exists, yet I never read such an account from a 10-year-old point-of-view. Rachel illustrates the sometimes graphic, sometimes muted terror-of-the-night children of murdered parents are heir to, their wispy and unexpressed--indeed unconscious--suspicion of significant-others, and their necessary dependencies on adults who, often not comprehending the nuances involved, believe that by trotting the kid to therapy, they absolve themselves of the pain of revisiting the circumstances themselves. In Rachel's case, her father's family remained largely silent with her about that night. They may have felt that openly speaking about the murder with someone so young would somehow legitimize it for her. In fact, their passivity had the opposite, and quite damaging, effect on a young mind hungry for assurance and validation.

Palpable throughout Rachel's memoir is its raw honesty. The writing is often brutally introspective, devoid of the self-pity and lachrymose language which the author might easily --and justifiably-have indulged. She is seeking information and answers, and by the last page, I realize she has found those things, and some peace along the way.

Therese Hercher
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on August 2, 2005
One staple of murder mysteries is the decade old murder being solved through brilliant detective work. This is a book about a real life ten year old murder. The victim was the authors father.

As she had progressed through life, the murder had left her with ghosts in her path and as she was preparing to marry she decided to go investigate the murder. The book reads almost like a fictional murder mystery. She interviewed the detectives who investigated the case. She talked with every relative (and there were a lot between the several marriages) she could find. Everyone had a story, no one had any idea who did it.

By the end she had no better idea of the killer than when she started, but she had resolved some of the questions and puzzlements in her own life, and reestablished a relationship with her family. For her, that had to be enough.
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on February 4, 2006
William Grimes has always been one of my favorite NY Times reviewers. Although he tends to be negative, when he waxes effusive, I take notice. When I saw this....


"As a memoirist, she succeeds BRILLIANTLY. "The Lost Night" is ENTHRALLING, a skillfully narrated story that begins as a tale of detection but quickly becomes something more."

--William Grimes, NEW YORK TIMES

I figured I'd take a chance. Well, it's been sitting on my nightstand for 6-months now and damn if it's not enthralling. Although I was hoping for a bit of a who-done-it, I couldn't put it down. The descriptions of the messed-up Central Valley(to put it delicately)were terrific. With some sex, drugs, and even some 80s Rod Stewart in the mix, for good measure, it was a joy to read.
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on July 22, 2006
This is a wonderful combination of memoir and true crime. I felt as though I realy got to know the author. Her willingness to examine the fragility of memory and adjust her conclusions accordingly made her more appealing. The change in her attitudes toward the people in her life caused me to re-examine my own feelings toward people in my life. This book is a definite addition for anyone's library.
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on September 24, 2013
great memoir. I seldom read memoirs because so many are self-serving but this one is an honest look at what happened to a woman whose life might have been wrecked but wasn't, simply because she had the courage to confront her past. terrific read.
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Rachel Howard tells a compelling story in "The Lost Night," a memoir that reads like an extended episode of crime documentary shows like "48 Hours Mystery." A pre-teen when her father was stabbed to death in what seemed like a botched break-in, the loss haunts Howard until she can find a way to make sense of it. Suspicion surrounds Howard's step-mother, whose brother is questioned by police, but it is eventually cold cased. As an adult, Howard investigates further, a decision which brings her back in contact with both her father's family and her dreaded step-mother (who has since married again and moved away.)

The book effectively sets the scene in California's Central Valley, and Howard successfully plumbs the psychological effects of growing up without a murdered parent. She is candid about many of her struggles with men as a result of the loss, although she is slightly dreamy about her wedding and happy relationship with her husband. (This aspect of the memoir seemed overly one-sided and idealistic.) Her father's murder is never solved, but Howard does find a way to come to peace with it, including an acknowledgment of her own biases against her former step-mother, who makes a memorable reappearance in some of the book's best latter moments.

What we end up learning about in "The Lost Night" is the effect of crime on those left behind, and the mysteries that remain when crimes aren't solved. Although the writing is no where near the quality of classics of the true crime genre, this is a worthy effort and worth a read.
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on August 17, 2006
Met the author at a book signing and was impresssed by her impeccable poise and story-telling ability. Then I went home and read the book. Wow. I had the same experience as the other readers. This is an excellent and poignant memoir.

One feels the you-are-there quality of a little girl awakening in the middle of the night to see her father covered with blood on the floor. The people in her book are like characters in a Dickens novel, yet they are (were) all very real. Howard captures the cultural milieu of Merced California in the mid '80's. Her father loved Rod Stewart with a passion and the lyrics of his songs weave through the true story of a child trying to make sense of what is going on around her.

The child matures into an adult and becomes a writer! What an awesome contribution to the memoir genre. I do hope that the killer is eventually caught.
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