Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review of Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

All Chip Linton wants when he moves to Bethel, New Hampshire is a little peace and quiet for his family. He has already survived the unthinkable, a plane crash. Since he was the pilot, he blames himself for not being able to pull off a "Miracle on the Hudson" type maneuver.

Tragically, Linton is not able to pull off the same type of miracle and 39 of the flight's passengers die. In therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, Chip vows never to fly again.

Emily, Chip's wife, decides the family needs to move away from Philadelphia but she has a difficult time adjusting to the Victorian house. She's grateful for the anonymity; she was tired of fielding questions about the crash.

On the other hand, she finds the house's history creepy. The former inhabitant's twelve-year-old son is rumored to have killed himself in the house. The house's internal structure is strange: each of the three floors is a little narrower than the preceding one, the wallpaper is hideous, and the basement has a bolted door that seemingly leads nowhere.

In addition, why are there so many greenhouses in Bethel? Every house, including the one Chip and Emily have just bought, seem to have one. Why does everyone in the town seem overly interested in the Linton twins.
Bohjalian's narrative most freely back and forth among all the characters but it is actually the twins' impressions which stand out. Despite their father's fragility and nightmares, the twins are face even greater dangers.

This is marvelous, well-researched novel by one of America's best writers. Chris Bohjalian writes that he spoke to countless pilots to get the details right.

The epilogue, however, made me sad. While I didn't expect Chip to become an all-American hero  that Sully Sullenberger was, I thought he could at least save his family from the herbalists. The ending is disturbing, albeit thought-provoking.

If you're reading this for a book club, you may want to discuss what you would do differently if you were Chip or Emily Linton.

Other books by Chris Bohjalian:
Before You Know Kindness
Buffalo Soldier
Double Bind
Idyll Banter
Law of Similars
Midwives
Secrets of Eden
Skeletons at the Feast
Sandcastle Girls
Trans-Sister Radio
Water Witches