The Night Strangers

It was a dark and stormy night.

No electricity in the eerie old mansion, a scary apparition calls for restitution, and bones morph into ghosts.   If you like Bohjalian’s brand of psychological drama, The Night Strangers will have the hair on the back of your neck prickling, and you will be wondering what is real and what is imagined.

Chip Linton was not as lucky as Sully Sullenberger; Chip crash landed his commercial jet into a lake, but thirty-nine passengers died.  Trying to recover from the trauma and guilt of surviving, Chip moves his family from tony West Chester, outside of Philadelphia, to an old house in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  The basement of the house has a door sealed, conveniently, with 39 bolts.  The story’s narration flips from Chip’s thoughts as he tries to cope with his post-traumatic symptoms to his wife Emily, an attorney who finds work in the village, as she tries to normalize the family’s emotions, and then to their twin daughters, Garnet – red-haired and suffering from epileptic seizures, and Hallie, who, like her mother, acts as a stabilizing force.

What seems like a routine tale of a family in recovery, suddenly turns into a scary tale of “I see dead people.”  The village women who grow exotic plants in their greenhouses, and brew concoctions that can change perspectives add to the drama.

Bohjalian cleverly juggles reality with the paranormal, and you won’t know if the voices and apparitions are real or in Chip’s mind.  You may think you do, but you’ll need to read to the end to be sure.  By creating cliffhangers at strategic points in the plot, Bohjalian sustains the suspense.   The journey was more fun than getting there; the ending left me feeling robbed – but that’s Chris Bohjalian.

A great scary book to read through the night; keep your doors locked and a flashlight handy.

Read my review of another Chris Bohjalian thrillerSecrets of Eden

Of Bugs and Books and Bookstore Doors

Just like fashion that recycles back if given enough time – you didn’t throw away those bellbottoms, did you? – small bookstores are making a comeback.  Author Ann Patchett suggests that bookstores may go in cycles – like the cicadas, that buggy scourge that returns very 13 or 17 years, with their shrill sound, falling out of trees onto unsuspecting children’s backpacks as they walk home – adding more shrill screaming. Patchett’s reassuring essay confirms that those small independent bookstores are still here – and maybe better for the departure of their larger competitors.  In her essay for the New York Times, Of Bugs and Books, Patchett recalls her recent book tour for her new novel, The State of Wonder.

Patchett visited some familiar names: Powell’s in Portland and Prose and Politics in Washington, D.C., and more – all doing well.  As a mark of her faith, she is opening her own bookstore – Parnasus Books – in her hometown of Nashville.

Maybe Patchett will ask her visitors to follow the habit of patrons at Frank Shay’s bookstore in Greenwich Village, open for business from 1920 – 1925, and have users sign her door.  Shay’s bookstore door just resurfaced in an exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center in Texas, displaying famous signatures on both sides of the door: Theodore Dreiser, John Dos Passos, and Sherwood Anderson, among other authors who liked to browse there.  Jennifer Schuessler’s essay  for the New York Times Sunday Book Review noted that Christopher Morley wrote about the small bookstore’s closing…

“It was too personal, too enchanting… to survive indefinitely.”

But, maybe the time for small enchanting bookstores is back.

  • Read my review of State of Wonder – here 
  • More information on the Greenwich Village Door – here
  • Interact with the Greenwich Village Door Exhibit – here