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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.
Overall I enjoyed this book. I liked the various perspectives. I liked the relationships between the main character and the girls (both alive & dead). Read morePublished 7 days ago by OK RACH
bad ending, bad plot and overall descending from medium to lame bookPublished 12 days ago by Ceci Heredia
It was a page turner but ultimately if you are like me and do not like to see children in peril then this is not the book for you. Read morePublished 1 month ago by ThomasTaylor
the story was mesmerizing and believable...got a little over the top about 3/4 thru book and i was disappointed in the ending....
overall it was a good read.
This is the first book by this author that I've read, and I will read others, but this book wasn't as spooky or creepy as I'd hoped. Read morePublished 1 month ago by S. Lance
The concept of this story being so déjà vu, it becomes almost imperative for the reader to discover what Bohjalian would do with it. Read morePublished 2 months ago by FRS
This book is terrifying, it was so creepy it was truly a good old-fashioned thriller-horror! I have twins so even after I finished it was on my mind for days!Published 2 months ago by leeann
Chris Bohjalian is one of my favorite authors, and I found "The Night Strangers" very interesting and suspenseful, as with his other books I have read . Read morePublished 2 months ago by Phyllis T. Sheridan
True Bohjalian style- well written, scary story reels you right in. You can't go wrong by reading this author!Published 2 months ago by Kathleen A. Murphy