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The Night Strangers: A Novel Paperback – April 24, 2012
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To put the matter succinctly: The first chapter of Chris Bohjalian’s The Night Strangers is so riveting, I dropped the book in the tub.
I spent the next half-hour running a hair-dryer over its soaked pages. By the time the task was complete the book was as swollen as a Reuben sandwich. It was clear to me that if the first twenty pages were any indication, I’d better read the rest somewhere safe and secure, with neither water nor fire, and while I was at it, some good soundproofing, lest I freak out my children by shrieking like an acrophobe on a roller coaster.
I wasn’t wrong.
Describing Bohjalian’s thirteenth novel isn’t a simple matter. Its dovetailing plots are so seamlessly interwoven--as tightly screwed together as the thirty-nine carriage bolts sealing the mysterious door in the Linton’s (very creepy) basement--I don’t want to give too much away.
But it’s also a challenge to summarize because The Night Strangers is so many novels at once, as all good novels must be. It’s a psychological thriller. It’s a domestic drama, the story of a family coping with the aftermath of dislocation and disaster. It’s a book about a specifically American locale, in this case a small town in a remote corner of New Hampshire. It’s a classic New England ghost story, and a hell of a good one. (It also won’t make you want to get on an airplane anytime soon, though there I go, telling too much.)
I’ve been following Bohjalian for some time. Always I’ve come away from his novels replete with admiration--and not a little envy--for his skill and versatility, book after book. His psychological acumen is downright Flaubert-esque, most notably (and remarkably) in his creation of female characters. But Bohjalian is a reader-friendly writer, too. His novels are compulsively discussable, the kinds of tales that employ specific human dramas to probe larger ethical issues. They make you think. They are, in every sense, “what would you do?” books, and the answers are never simple.
If there’s a core to Bohjalian’s work, though, it’s the cultural divide between the modern scientific world and--for lack of a better term--the spiritual world and its ancient practices. His novels are populated by the likes of dowsers (Water Witches), the practitioners of traditional female-assisted birth (Midwives), homeopaths (The Law of Similars), even a shape-shifter (Trans-Sister Radio).
The Night Strangers follows this tradition, but with a dark twist. The witches of Bethel, New Hampshire are decidedly of the sinister variety—albeit more likely to sell real estate and wear stylish leather skirts than fly around on brooms and don pointy hats. Beneath the town’s charming rural surface of gingerbread Victorians, maple sugarhouses, and fiery foliage lurks a conspiracy of evil reminiscent of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown.” How evil? Suffice it to say that when somebody drops by to welcome newcomers to the neighborhood with a plate of vegan brownies, they should think twice before taking the first bite.
But to say anything more would be to reveal too much. Fans of his fiction, as I am, will know The Night Strangers is pure Bohjalian. Newcomers will come away wanting more. And if you read it in the bathtub, consider yourself warned.
"Bohjalian flings himself into a full-blooded romance with the paranormal. In doing so, he earns a place alongside Stephen King as the master of the Halloween beach book. This ghost story is expertly and, at times, beautifully written, deliciously creepy, and, like a bag of trick-or-treat loot, silently calls out to you when it's languishing on the night table." -- Julie Wittes Schlack, The Boston Globe
"This unsettling latest from master storyteller Bohjalian will keep you up at night." -- Lisa Kay Greissinger, People Magazine
"Bohjalian combines modern-day horror with supernatural horror to create a double-whammy of otherwordly fear. But despite the modern trappings, this is a blood-splattered, old-fashioned ghost story. And there's no guarantee of safe passage in the end." -- Amy Driscoll, The Miami Herald
"Echoes of Rosemary's Baby and The Shining. . .Read if you dare, but keep an extra light on, and make sure your seat is in the full upright and locked position." -- Patty Rhule, USA Today
"Shades of The Shining make for a haunting tale. . . A modern-day ghost story worth losing sleep over." -- Family Circle
"You will close the book's covers totally satisfied, aware that this masterful storyteller has done it again." -- Seattle Times
"The Night Strangers has all the hallmarks of a good ghost story, but. . . Bohjalian has put his own 21st-century spin on the supernatural genre in his frightening new novel." -- Christian DuChateau, CNN
"After losing passengers in a forced landing, a pilot seeks respite by moving his family to New England. But the house is haunted and local witches won't leave them alone. Good 'n' spooky." -- Good Housekeeping
"Put a haunted man in a haunted house. . .and you have a Halloween hair-raiser. But it's more than that. Bohjalian, with a dozen well-received novels to his credit, understands trauma: how long it takes to recover from unimaginable pain, and how people who have never experienced it rarely understand." -- Tim Clark, Yankee Magazine
"Compelling. . .a ghost story in the tradition of such classics of the genre as 'The Turn of the Screw' and 'The Haunting of Hill House.'" -- James D. Watts, The Tulsa World
"Bohjalian has crafted a genre-defying novel, both a compelling story of a family in trauma and a psychological thriller that is truly frightening. Fans of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones and Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye and The Robber Bride will find similar appeal here." -- Library Journal [Starred Review]
"A gripping paranormal thriller. . .Meticulous research and keen attention to detail give depth and character to [the] eerie world. . .Bohjalian is a master, and the slow-mounting dread makes this a frightful ride." -- Publishers Weekly
"A page-turner of uncommon depth. Guilt, egotism, and fear all play parts in this genre-bending novel." -- Booklist [Starred Review]
"Compelling. . .a practical magick horror story." -- Kirkus Reviews
More About the Author
His new novel, "The Guest Room" -- a literary thriller about a marriage in crisis, two remarkable women, and human trafficking -- was just published.
His books have been chosen as Best Books of the Year by the Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Hartford Courant, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Bookpage, and Salon.
His awards include the ANCA Freedom Award for his work educating Americans about the Armenian Genocide; the ANCA Arts and Letters Award for The Sandcastle Girls, as well as the Saint Mesrob Mashdots Medal; the New England Society Book Award for The Night Strangers; the New England Book Award; Russia's Soglasie (Concord) Award for The Sandcastle Girls; a Boston Public Library Literary Light; a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Trans-Sister Radio; and the Anahid Literary Award. His novel, Midwives, was a number one New York Times bestseller, a selection of Oprah's Book Club, and a New England Booksellers Association Discovery pick. He is a Fellow of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, including the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Reader's Digest, and the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. He was a weekly columnist in Vermont for the Burlington Free Press from 1992 through 2015.
Chris graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Amherst College, and lives in Vermont with his wife, the photographer Victoria Blewer. Their daughter, Grace Experience, is a young actor in New York City. Among the audiobooks she has narrated are "Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands" and "The Guest Room."
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This story is really creepy and the ending is ghastly. Not the usual Chris Bohjalian.Published 12 days ago by Vinny Butz
This book was very interesting to me -- It's not my genre at all (I'm more into reality-based character studies), but I was anxious to give it a read as I really appreciate some of... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Clearing_Boxer
Definitely a page turner! You get to see the story from many perspectives, but it still keeps you wondering and wanting more.Published 4 months ago by Josie
Great gripping read! Well structured and believable story and climax,I would recommend it to ghost story fans and fans of occult! Read morePublished 4 months ago by Debra Ripp
Chris Bohjalian has become one of my favorite writers. The Double Bind, The Sandcastle Girls, and Skeletons at the Feast were about topics as diverse as a horrible assault on a... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Steven R. Lindahl