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Showing 1-10 of 110 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 317 reviews
on January 3, 2012
I've read Chris Bohjalian before and have enjoyed his work. So when I saw that Amazon had listed this as one of the Best Books of 2011, I thought I'd give it a go during holiday break. I was immersed in the book, and couldn't put it down because I desperately wanted to see how it ended. However, when I reached the end I felt like the structure of the book just fell apart.

Now, I'm not the type of person who demands happy endings. I usually go with the ending and the plot the way the author writes it out and when finished think about what the story was trying to be and what the author might have been trying to say.

But when I reached the end of this book, I called into question entire plot points. What was the point of Chip being haunted by the ghosts of the plane crash victims? Not a minor question as that is a major plot in the book. I was willing to forgive the endless parade of herb-named women that just got silly toward the end--and maybe it was because I read the book in 2 days that it just seemed silly. I was willing to overlook as minor the fact that I would have thought an educated attorney like Emily would see through the "cult-like" group who had befriended her and at least get a second opinion (as she was willing to do with one of the herbal-psychiatrists). And the kids just fell for hanging out with a bunch of grandmotherly types who wanted to change their names and ingratiate them into their club?

I kept wondering what the time period for this book was supposed to be. There are lots of convenient contrivances inserted to try to explain why this family is so isolated: dysfunctional paternal side of the family, dead maternal side of the family, moving far away from friends and old life, the remoteness of Bethel that leads to poor cell phone service.

It just was all too much in the end.

Disappointing.
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on February 21, 2013
This was terrible. I almost want to give it one star, but those books are just a little bit worse. This is a 1.5, though. I found it completely unrealistic and ridiculous, and I don't even mean the parts about the supernatural! - That, I could buy into, if done well. The ridiculous came more in the behavior of the "normal" people, like - they had/have no existing friends whatsoever? REALLY? They would trust these random people? The kids would go to their house every day? She wouldn't think it was weird that they wanted to call her by a different name?!?!?!?!? Maddening. And then I thought maybe it could be slightly redeemed somehow depending on how it ended (i.e., Garnet didn't like her new name - would she prove a hero? Would any of it begin to make some sort of sense??). That did not happen. The end was ridiculous and the Epilogue was just sad and dumb. The only thing that would have made this book even somewhat redeeming is if they fought back and won.

The problem with Bohjilian is that none of his novels are anything alike. In the extras at the end of this book, he prides himself on that. I disagree. I actually like when authors are consistent and kind of have a "brand," so that if you like them, you can return to them and know what you're getting into. Barring that, if you can't be consistent, at least try to be consistently good! Fail.

PS There is a reason authors hardly ever use second person. It sucks.

PPS POV from the cat. That was when it COMPLETELY lost me.
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on October 13, 2011
This is one of the most engrossing books I've read in a while-- I have to admit, I couldn't put it down. A perfect book for fall, especially a dark rainy evening!

The novel is an interesting mix of creepy/scary and psychological tension, and the story is told in a combination of the second and third person. Though certain aspects of the book can be far-fetched upon reflection, the author weaves his tale in a way that makes it seem totally believable.

Surprisingly, for a novel I enjoyed so much there was very little character development-- you kind of have to take all of the players at face value and not dig too deeply. If you're able to overlook this and dive straight into the story, you'll find the speed of the plot keeps things moving along at a nice steady clip. In many ways, the lack of details and insights into the characters makes everything even more spooky.
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on November 27, 2011
There were mixed reviews for this novel, but since I love Chris Bohjalian, I thought I'd give it a shot. It was like reading the best of Stephen King (particularly but not exclusively "The Shining")mixed together with the Bruce Willis movie "The 6th Sense" and good old fashion New England folklore. After a pilot crashes his plane into Lake Champlain, killing 39 passengers, his wife and twin daughters move to New Hampshire to start anew. Unfortunately, their demons follow them, as the pilot sees ghosts of the people who perished on his plane. Or does he? Is it just post-traumatic stress, or perhaps survivor's guilt, or is he having a nervous breakdown? What about the other strange happenings in this town, including the tragedy that occurred so long ago in the house they just recently purchased? And what is up with the "herbalists" in this sleepy New England town who have taken such an interest in the pilot's twin daughters? Each page reveals a piece of the puzzle, until you begin to see the whole picture. As the novel builds to a crescendo, you want to continue reading to discover if you were right all along. The ending will leave you breathless, and the characters will stay with you for days. The only downside was I didn't want to put it down, but I found I was too scared to read it too late at night. A book worth reading.
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on June 5, 2012
Chris Bohjalian creates a claustrophobic atmosphere in this novel. That's about the best you can say. The story is a complicated plot and is meant to be character driven,yet is overwhelmed by the ruminations of one of the main characters, the seemingly doomed Chip, an airline pilot overcome by a tragic accident in which his plane goes down and all the passengers, but for 10, are killed. Chip's voice is an insistent one, in fact, we relive the plane crash over and over and over, ad nauseum, until you just start to zone out and skip over those parts. In addition, the narration of the crash is changed to the second person form, which really, to this reader at least, doesn't add much immediacy to the story, and is completely intrusive and aggravating, like a car alarm that you just can't tune out or turn off.

This novel has a cast of thousands, you are drowning in actors here. Yet the characters with the most potential, Reseda,Emily, and the girls, are sketchily drawn, even though much time is taken up with their entries into the story. They are bland, with scarcely much that is unique to say about themselves, not plucky, not engaging, simply, as in, for example, Reseda's case, smugly placed to move the action along.

At the same time, there are odd little unresolved moments, some sexy time between two of the main characters, 39 bolts on the basement door, equaling the number of crash victims, strange wallpaper, etc. Bits and pieces of detail that rival Stephen King's artifice, yet are just placed there, as if to say, "look what I did there, I bet you didn't expect that!" None of these details are ever resolved, nor do they contribute to the plot, they're just there, as if Mr. B's magic author wand spat out some sparkle for the audience to applaud.

In fact, that's what bugs me the most about this book. I feel taken advantage of, and condescended to. "Dear reader:" the novelist seems to say, "I will direct this movie as I see fit, and if you can follow along, then goody for you." There is no space for the reader to feel intrigued, sucked into the mysteries of the story, or seduced by a contrary, eccentric character here or there; it's all overexplained, the clues are patently obvious and the writer seems almost to greet the reader with a smug tone, as if to make sure that we see EVERY footprint, EVERY ghostly appearance, EVERY clue that will lead us down the lane to the final plot twist, a CB specialty, or so I hear. In short, it's so complacently baroque that by the time you've reached the end, after a seemingly inexhaustible recitation of the plane's final moments again and again, you don't really give a crap about whatever twisty and turny denouement CB has in store for you. And for all that, it's just as well, for the ending is as ungenerous as the rest of the book.

No surprise, I suppose, after all.
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on October 24, 2011
I downloaded the free Kindle sample of this book and, even though I thought the pace was a bit slow, I enjoyed the premise and writing enough to purchase the full book. Not only did the pace never really pick up but the characters I initially liked became ridiculous at best and completely implausible at worst. The worst case was Emily. Supposedly an attorney in a high end law firm in downtown Philadelphia but, once she and her family moved to New Hampshire, she becomes a mental and emotional basket case completely incapable of recognizing the fact that a group of creepy locals are trying to manipulate her and her family. The entire story is made up of a series of incidents where Emily the lawyer and her husband, a former airline pilot, are toyed with like a couple of puppets by the locals.

SPOILER ALERT

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.
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on July 7, 2012
I ordered this book after reading a couple of positive reviews and a newspaper interview with the author. I'm a fan of ghost/horror stories, and this one sounded fresh and interesting.

It was - in the beginning. It was hard to put down at first. But the second half dragged, and the ending was a huge disappointment. The intriguing beginning devolved into silly genre cliches. Maybe if you don't read much horror, this mishmash might seem interesting, but for anyone who's read more than a few horror books, this was a boring re-tread of ground that is all too familiar.

In the end, nothing really worked for me in this book. The fact that the beginning was good only made the disappointment of the rest sharper. The characterization did not seem realistic, the solutions to the various mysteries were not satisfying or nonexistent, the plot was one I've seen a million times before.

In particular, I was reminded of Thomas Tryon's book from the 1970s, Harvest Home. Or The Other - a far more interesting use of twins. Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, HP Lovecraft - there are a lot of authors who have done "creepy New England town" better than this.
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on January 28, 2012
I'm very torn as to how to rate this book and I may go back and change it later.

Full disclosure - I've never read anything by Bohjalian so I had no expectations going in. I also grew up reading King, Straub and Koontz so I at least used to really like the horror genre.

This book definitely sucked me in. I needed to find out what happened. At first the use of 2nd person for Chip's scenes was weird, but I got used to it rather quickly. The ending was unexpected (which is rare these days) and certainly shocked me. It also really, really disturbed me and that's part of the reason I don't know how to rate this book. Usually with books I really like, I'll read them over and over. I know I'll never read this book again.

***mild spoilers***
I am bothered at how complacent Chip and Emily are, but I can chalk that up to the fact that they are being fed some bizarre (and conflicting) things from the herbalists. I'm also bothered that Bohjalian doesn't really write the herbalists as evil. By the end of the book it is clearly apparent that Clary, John, Anise et. al., are reprehensible, disgusting and vile.

Overall, I'd recommend this book to others as long as they know what they are getting in to. This isn't a nice story and it will leave you feeling very disturbed.
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VINE VOICEon November 3, 2011
Chris Bohjalian has made a career out of writing compelling fiction with complex characters that are placed in situations that challenge them. Some of his better-known novels include MIDWIVES, THE DOUBLE BLIND and SECRETS OF EDEN. In all of those novels, conscience and morality come into play and every character is forced to make difficult decisions.

It will come as quite a surprise to his regular readers that Mr. Bohjalian has now ventured into the realm of the supernatural with his latest release --- THE NIGHT STRANGERS. Since his novels never pull any punches --- and quite often present surprising plot twists --- I was prepared for anything with this book. It's safe to say that there is something for everyone here --- enough chills to satisfy fans of the supernatural in a character-driven plot that reads like dramatic fiction.

Airline pilot Chip Linton and his family --- wife Emily and twin daughters Hallie and Garnet --- are settling into their new home in Northern New Hampshire. They are looking to make an escape from a tragic airline incident that has emotionally scarred Chip. A seventy-seat regional jet he was flying suffered double engine failure and was forced to make an emergency landing in Lake Champlain. Unlike the Miracle on the Hudson, Chip Linton and Flight 1611 were not the subject of a heroic feat. Flight 1611 crashed hard and the impact along with the freezing lake water claimed the lives of 39 of his passengers.

Now, attempting to rebuild their lives, the Linton's have moved into an old Victorian home in Bethel, New Hampshire. It is not long before the images and memories in Chip's mind begin materializing to him in the basement of the home. He sees victims of his crash --- adults and children --- and is drawn to a door in the basement that ironically has 39 bolts in it. These night strangers that Chip visits with most evenings are trying to both console and warn him. What they are trying to tell him is unclear and strange things begin to befall Chip Linton.

At the same time, the rest of his family are attempting to settle in to their new community. Hallie and Garnet are attending fifth-grade and Emily is making friends with some of the locals. Emily suspects that there might be something more than simply eccentric with the local residents as the women of the local White Mountain village have all adopted names representing herbs and spices. If this weren't creepy enough, the women are showing a strange interest in Emily's daughters. Are the Linton's all going mad or is there really something wicked happening among the White Mountains?

Bohjalian deftly peels back the layers and let's the readers decide if Chip Linton is going insane or if he is really in the midst of a supernatural haunting. THE NIGHT STRANGERS will not make you jump out of your seat but instead provides chills and creepy moments that make you question all that is happening. There are definite echoes of classic literary horror from Ira Levin's ROSEMARY'S BABY to Thomas Tryon's HARVEST HOME and a New England feel that calls to mind the better work of Stephen King. A great book for a spooky fall night!

Reviewed by Ray Palen for New Mystery Reader
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on October 8, 2012
I knew I was in trouble when I started reading narrative from the point of view of the family cat.

Chris Bohjalian is a master storyteller. I've read every book he's written. But this is more like a botched movie treatment where the editor and maybe even the author could not make the Hollywood lunch meeting, so the agents finished the deal and then everybody went and cashed their checks.

You can almost see the formula drawn out on the napkin as the agents are all having lunch. Marginally famous person (Sully Sullenberger) plus PTSD plus, ghosts plus career Mom who falls apart plus Stephen King like twins. Toss in witches. Stir with stock New England weather footage, use the authors first draft (the book is overwritten by at least 50 pages) and presto! Everybody can make their mortgage payments,

Bohjalian is a serious talent. Buy all his books! But not this one. Cause he can and has done so much better than this.
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