Author: Chris Bohjalian
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Type: Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Thriller
Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸
Chris Bohjalian’s creepy thriller tells the story of the Linton family: Chip, Emily and twin ten-year-old daughters Garnet and Hallie. The Linton’s have moved to New Hampshire for what they hope will be a fresh start for their family, following Chip’s tragic plane crash of his regional jet into Lake Champlain. For Chip, the day started off like any other, with a normal taxi and take-off; unfortunately, the flight quickly went wrong when the plane hit a flock of geese causing dual engine failure and the inevitable crash into the lake. Despite Chip’s best efforts to safely land the plane, a la “the Miracle on the Hudson”, the majority of the passengers and crew aboard his flight die upon the initial impact or shortly thereafter due to drowning.
While Chip works to cope with the crash and discern what the ghosts who now haunt him want, Emily and the twins find themselves the center and focus of a group of herbalist women who are viewed as being witches by others in the town. As the ghosts push Chip closer towards harming his own family, Emily finds that not only does she need to protect her children from the father who has become distant and a stranger in their own home, but also from the neighbors whom she kept telling herself were just a harmless group of herbalists, yet are showing themselves to be anything but.
From the very first sentence to the final page of the book, I was hooked on The Night Strangers. I found the depiction of the crash to be both engaging and wonderfully described, so much so that it caused me to reflect on my training as a flight attendant the different scenarios I’m trained for, to think about what kinds of actions I would be performing in that scene as part of the cabin crew. As I followed the family in their journey to their new town and house, I couldn’t help but pick up on what I viewed as influences on the author from other pieces of literature. The haunted house with whispers in the dark to the father, slowly driving him mad and pushing him towards murder made me think of both The Amityville Horror and The Shining; I further thought of The Shining in the depiction of the twins. Although Garnet and Hallie are in no way shape or form as creepy as the twin girls in The Shining, there was still something about them and the keen interest the women of the herbalist club took in the girls that made me feel that there was something possibly supernatural within the girls themselves.
Anyone who has read a book by Chris Bohjalian will tell you that he is an amazing writer who really brings his characters to life and has an unbelievable knack for writing the female voice, but of all the books I have read by him I think that this may be my favorite in how he tells it. Most authors will tell and entire story in either first person narration, or third person; in The Night Strangers, Chris not only utilizes both first and third person narrations, but he also incorporates the second person narrator which was a truly unique and enjoyable method of storytelling to encounter as the reader. For those who are not familiar with second person narration, it is typically encountered in how-to books and cook books, for it’s when you as the reader are told what to do. In The Night Strangers, the second person is used when the reader is alone with the father, Chip. In these scenes, the reader is made to feel as though they themselves are Chip performing the different actions throughout the house. These scenes were some of my favorite parts of the book as it made me more sympathetic towards Chip as I was literally placed into his shoes.
In the end I was very satisfied with The Night Strangers, in no small part because it was an interesting and unique read which held my attention, but also because of how it was told. The only thing I had to complain about, it you can even call it a complaint, was a brief section in the book when Chip is reflecting on how if he hadn’t had the crash, he was on track to go from being the Captain on a regional jet to one day flying a Boeing 777. The issue I had with this is that that’s not how it works. In the airline industry, regional pilots can only transition from a regional plane (United Express, American Eagle) to a mainline aircraft (Airbus A319/A320 and Boeing 777, 747, etc.) if they interview with a mainline carrier (United Airlines, American Airlines) and are hired by that mainline airline. This was such a minor issue, and one that unless the person works in the airline industry or has family who works in the industry, the average reader wouldn’t even pick up on this, which I do recognize.
Despite my nitpicking of a truly minor detail to the larger story as a whole, I continue to be an avid fan of Chris Bohjalian. I will continue to read more of his books, and I’ll probably even return to this story at some point as I know that there are things I will pick up on with future readings.