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The Night Country : A Novel Hardcover – October 10, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

More poignant than terrifying, this contemporary ghost story set in suburban Connecticut focuses on the survivors of a car accident that killed three teenagers on Halloween exactly a year before the novel begins. Tim escaped without a scratch, but seeks to assuage his survivor's guilt on the first anniversary of the event. Kyle, once a teen rebel, is now a brain-damaged shadow (a kind of zombie) of his former self. Brooks, the townie cop who discovered the accident, watches helplessly as his life skids out of control. And most poignant of all, Nancy Sorensen, Kyle's mother, stoically cares for her damaged son and tries to heal a marriage nearly destroyed by grief. These sad characters are haunted in another way as well, by the ghosts of the three killed instantly in the crash: Marco, Toe and Danielle, who address themselves directly to the reader. "We're on a mission," they say, but their objective is never explicitly stated; they just observe as the day's events unfold. Each character's story is told (and, eventually, woven together) in O'Nan's simple, searching prose, which captures the inchoate passion and longing of teenage life as well as the bleak resignation of middle age. O'Nan demonstrates remarkable restraint; there's no grasping for tragic meaning (the accident was "just something random that happened to us, bad luck," according to Marco) or melodrama. Despite some confusing shifts in time-it's occasionally hard to decipher what's happening now and what happened then-a coherent thesis of misfortune emerges: death has many victims, and the ghosts haunting the survivors don't only appear on Halloween.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The aftermath of a Halloween tragedy haunts a New England town on the one-year anniversary of a typical teen joyride that ended with a car wrapped around a tree. Toe, Marco, and Danielle were instantly killed. Kyle lives on, sort of; a severe brain injury obliterates the rebel in him, the accident leaving him with the mind of a child. Tim, "the lucky one" in the backseat, his arms around Danielle, survived but now has a death wish. Officer Brooks, the first on the scene, was terribly altered by the event, and his life is in shambles. Now, on Halloween, he fears that Tim is going to do something horrible. Travis and Greg, buds of Toe, don't want the day to go by without memorializing their dear departed friends. O'Nan, author of Wish You Were Here [BKL F 1 02], tells a ghost story from the point of view of Marco's ghost. Like the narrator of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones [BKL My 1 02], Marco (along with Danielle and Toe) can witness the lives of those they left behind, see the impact their deaths have had on the community, but have little direct effect on certain inevitabilities--an interesting literary contrivance that doesn't always pay off (see Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend in a Coma (1998) and Hey, Nostradamus [BKL My 15 03] for other examples of this vantage point). O'Nan's voice is compelling, his prose lovely and evocative. Benjamin Segedin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: O'nan, Stewart
  • Hardcover: 229 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (October 10, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374222150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374222154
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,314,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sebastien Pharand on April 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
There exist many different kinds of horror. On one side, you have the more visceral and violent kind. On the other, you have the more quiet and emotional one. The Night Country, an amazingly affective novel, falls into this second category. Written with much soul and emotion, it's a nearly poetic treatise about the sadness of death and the sadness of life.
The story takes place a year after a horrible car crash that left four teenagers dead, one badly injured and one unharmed. Now, a year later, the ghosts of the departed ones look at the world and the people who used to matter in their lives. It is now the eve of Halloween, the day when, one year ago, the accident happened. We follow these characters for twenty-four hours, until the very tragic end of the story.
The story follows many different subplots that all merge into one. You have Brookes, the cop who was the first to arrive at the scene of the accident and who has been badly scarred by it ever since. You have Tim, the only one who survived unharmed and who hasn't been able to deal with the event. And you have Kyle, who survived the crash but who was left damaged in more ways than one, and his parents.
As our narrator, the late Marco, tells us what happens to these characters, the other ghosts often argue with him or come in to tell us their brief version of things. O'Nan weaves his narrative in such a way that you never quite know where the book is taking you. Well, you know where it is trying to go although you wish it will never get there.
The Night Country is a book that is all about death. There is very little joy to be found in this story. Instead, what you find is sadness. These characters are too badly scarred to ever be able to mend their lives back into what they used to be.
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Format: Hardcover
The best horror novel of 2003. Yes, it's bleak, but it's about the death of three teenagers in a car crash. I can't believe people would give this thing a bad review because it's depressing. The author should be praised for doing his job. If you want crap like Dean Koontz, then by all means, pick up your books at Wal-Mart and read crap. If a book is too much for you, then stay away from it. Idiots.
What's really amazing is the amount of laughs O'nan squeezes out of us, and this while submerged in his dark universe (a place called "real life"--mighta heard of it; innocent kids die there). The dead teens seem to be the only ones having a good time, and their diolgoue isn't the stilted crap that most writers give us when taking on the "cool" persona of a teenager.
Anyone who has ever lived in a small town will relate to The Car Accident. Every town has one, and it's the same fear that slasher movies drive on. All those kids killed by Jason or Freddy or Madman Marz (an A-plus to everyone who gets that last reference) are standing in for thos empty seats in third-hour algebra and the missing faces at graduation. Same with the talk of murdered teens in the opening scene of "Jeepers Creepers." But O'nan doesn't soften the blow with distance. There's no monster in a hockey mask standing in for a tragic accident. He gives us the real thing, and tells us that ghosts are of our own devising. And deep down, it's something we've known all along.
O'Nan's love of the genre also comes through, with references ranging from Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol to "Return of the Living Dead." Refreshing to read, because too many "serious" horror novels are written by posers who wouldn't know William Castle from Paul Naschy.
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Format: Hardcover
O'Nan is well known for his disturbing novels that manage to hook the reader and tighten his emotions to the breaking point. The Night Country manages to do this in "real time", the bulk of the story taking place on Halloween one year after a tragic car wreck that left a group of friends decimated. Three have died and are ghosts haunting the town, while a fourth is brain-damaged, and a traumatized fifth suffers suvivor's guilt. Told from the perspective of one of the ghosts, who can get "into the heads" of all other characters, we learn the details of the crash and the fears, sorrows, and heartaches of the townsfolk. Disturbing, complex, and very human, this book will touch you to your core.
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Format: Paperback
For the first 75 pages, I was intrigued enough to continue reading and hoped this plodding story would blossom. For the next 100 pages, my interest withered away, but I kept reading. The remainder of the novel bored me with false hopes of anything positive to take away from this overly long diary of victims, vandalism, despair, teenage angst and car crashes.

Sold to me as contemporary gothic horror by an independent bookseller, it took me a month to get through the novel (and not for lack of trying). I was devoid of caring for any of the lackluster characters. Perhaps it is the novel's construction and first person point of view from a character who offers absolutely nothing relevant or interesting to the story, save he's the most generic and least repulsive of the teenage spirits. Instead of being scary or creepy, the spirits seemed spiteful, mundane and selfish. Three-fourths through the book, I hoped the teenage spirits would die a second time, just to be rid of them. While I enjoyed the author's writing style, the plot was too sketchy, dark when it really didn't need to be and as lifeless as the teenage spirits running around.
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