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The Longest Night: A Novel Paperback – October 4, 2016
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“[A] smart and detailed portrait of a dissolving postwar marriage . . . will remind many readers of Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“[Andria] Williams’s quietly confident style is without swagger or gimmick. . . . What emerges most powerfully from The Longest Night is a kind of quiet wonder at the exquisite intricacy, but astonishing durability, of familial love.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“Think Army Wives meets Serial meets your perfect long weekend read. About an army base with a lot of love triangles, and a cover-up.”—theSkimm
“The tension builds heavily with each page.”—InStyle
“In both Paul and Nat we find echoes of Frank and April Wheeler in Richard Yates’s classic novel of late-1950s suburbia, Revolutionary Road. . . . [The Longest Night] not only packs taut, enthralling and utterly absorbing drama, but unexpected triumph and grace.”—Paste
“The Longest Night is not only a revealing story of a community gripped by Cold War paranoia, but also an unsettling portrait of commitment and desire.”—BookPage
“This is a great first novel.”—Library Journal
“Scintillating . . . Williams keeps the narrative interest percolating with great period details and by allowing her characters’ thoughts and emotions full expression. . . . A smoldering, altogether impressive debut that probes the social and emotional strains on military families in a fresh and insightful way.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[A] luminous debut . . . Williams expertly builds tension between Paul and Nat as the story progresses towards the inevitable nuclear tragedy in this utterly absorbing and richly rewarding novel.”—Booklist (starred review)
“In The Longest Night, unspoken longings within a marriage trigger an emotional explosion just as intense as the nuclear accident at the novel’s core. Andria Williams’s debut is an intimately detailed portrait of love, trust, and guilt in a town—and an era—clouded with secrets.”—Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You
“The Longest Night is a smart and compassionate novel that offers as many fresh insights into marriage and intimacy as it does about American nuclear history. Andria Williams is a terrific writer—clear-eyed and empathetic—and this is a fantastic debut.”—Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans
“It’s hard to believe The Longest Night is Andria Williams’s debut novel. Her command of language, character and plot—the three essential ingredients for a riveting read—is extraordinary. The Longest Night is about the fragility of a marriage, a Cold War nuclear accident on the plains of Idaho, and the stresses on a military family during deployment, and it takes on each of those things with all the robust storytelling energy of the great Russian novelists of the nineteenth century. This is the book I will be pressing into my friends’ hands this year when they ask me what they should be reading.”—David Abrams, author of Fobbit
About the Author
- Item Weight : 10.4 ounces
- Paperback : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 081298742X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812987423
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Publisher : Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 4, 2016)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,268,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The army angle of this remarkable first novel is rather low key, perhaps because the protagonist, Paul Collier, is a soldier trained in maintaining nuclear reactors, a pretty rare and specialized job, especially in 1961; and he and his family were assigned to a small unit in the remote town of Idaho Falls, Idaho. Paul and his wife, Nat, are something of a mismatch, but they've been together through six years and two children. Paul's boss, a master sergeant, is a drunk and a letch, as well as dangerously incompetent. And the prototype reactor they maintain is, it turns out, in dangerous disrepair.
So all this stuff should make for a really exciting story, right? Well, yeah, and it DOES, actually. And Williams is very good at slowly building up steam, filling in her background and giving you several very well defined characters. But what really grabs you here is the love story - or stories - and how marriage actually worked back in those days. Natalie "Nat" Collier is a heroine who will nearly break your heart. She certainly did mine. When Paul is suddenly deployed for six months to Greenland, Nat, pregnant and lonely, turns to Esrom, a young Mormon cowboy and mechanic she meets. But it remains innocent, despite Nat 's budding feelings for Esrom. And I know, it sounds like the old "triangle," or the lonely army wife cheating on her deployed husband, but it's not. It's just NOT, okay? Because fortunately Esrom is an honorable young guy, and Nat really does love Paul, despite their differences - but she is just so damn LONELY, ya know? And he is so kind to her and the little girls, and . .. ah, it's hard to explain, and I feel like such a sap for loving this story so damn much, ya know? Because I know women readers will love it. DO love it, in fact. And it is a pretty accurate depiction of an Army marriage and an Army wife, especially from those years.
Here's a sample of Nat's confusion and frustration over her feelings towards Esrom -
"It was improper to be lonely; it was improper to be bored; it was improper, most of all, to be filled with anything like longing. And even if you were good and stayed in your house and loved your children and your husband - and yes, she did love her husband - people could sniff out this longing in you ... hissing 'That one, that one is not satisfied.' Because there was no cure for it, it was worse than any one thing you might actually do."
And Williams is equally perceptive in her portrayals of the male principals here too. Both Paul and Esrom come across as very believable, fully realized characters. Because THE LONGEST NIGHT, even with its slowly building plot line and shocking climactic scenes, is very much a character-driven novel, i.e. my kinda book.
It's worth a repeat, I think. I loved this book. I'll be watching to see what Andria Williams writes next. My highest recommendation.
- Tim Bazzett, author of the Cold War memoir, SOLDIER BOY: AT PLAY IN THE ASA
The Longest Night is also a study in bureaucracy. I wanted to yell at these characters, so like many people I have known, who put their careers above what is best for the company, the country and lives of others. And the subordinates who are too afraid to speak up, unsure of themselves and ultimately just as selfish as the idiot on top who drives the situation to disaster. Then, accurately, the one person who finally speaks up to save the situation and everyone in it, gets the same or worse punishment as the culprit who created the problem. Perhaps more stories like this will encourage whistleblowers.
I chuckled at the moments women share regarding deployment: Discovering that the bed is suddenly too empty and opting for the sofa. Switching to mac and cheese for weeks at a time while the meat-eater is gone. The sudden rush of work when he returns, much bigger meals, much more laundry, as if his whole platoon moved back in. The returning soldier becomes the focus of the whole family. Do they have any idea?
A side note, I used the Kindle app on my phone this time so that I could read during lunch breaks, fearing it would be difficult to see, but this has become my new favorite way to read.