Mx3: Review: The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

October 3, 2011 Crown Books, Horror, Murders, Monsters, & Mayhem, Mystery/Suspense, Review, Thriller 19

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (October 4, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0307394999

Chip & Emily Lipton are desperately attempting to rebuild their lives with their ten-year-old twin daughters after the tragic accident that brought Chip’s career as a pilot to an end.

Months earlier, Chip had to make an emergency landing of a small regional jet when birds engulfed by the engines caused them to fail. His attempts to replicate the famous Sully Sullenberger landing in the Hudson River failed miserably. Thirty-nine people lost their lives in this crash, a young girl being one of them.

The Liptons decide to move to New Hampshire from Pennsylvania in an attempts to rebuild a new life.  No one blames Chip for the accident, but a fresh start would be best for everyone involved.  The small town they move to is called Bethel, their new home a beautiful Victorian building with its own greenhouse.

The townspeople are welcoming, particularly when they learn the children moving into the home are twins.  Apparently this home has a past of it’s own, involving a twelve-year-old boy, a twin, committing suicide.  The mother never really recovered from his death and was forever known as quite the eccentric woman.

Of course, the Liptons don’t discover any of this until they’ve moved into the home.  Something else mysterious they discover lays in the basement: a old chimney chute sealed shut with 39 6-inch long carriage bolts.

Once they move in, the Liptons start to make their new home their own. Chip understandably feels a great deal of grief and depression about the plane crash.  His soul is forever haunted and the old building he now calls his home seems to have a few dreaded secrets of its own.  Weakened due to his depression, Chip gets sucked in to the ghosts of their new home, ghosts that have followed him from the watery plane crash. He speaks to them as if they were alive. The most chilling ghost is that of a father who died along with his daughter. He’s extremely hateful toward Chip, insisting that his daughter deserves to have a friend. Chip’s solution to this problem is a frightening one, very reminiscent of scenes from Stephen King’s The Shining.

The eerie townspeople are drawn to the girls.  Decades ago, a horrible tragedy took place involving the last twin to live in this town…in this house. The ladies of the town, obsessed with baking, home remedies, and “herbal” potions, descend upon the girls. They deny being witches, but their obsession with mixing herbs and potions make this claim undeniable. They welcome the family with extravagant baked goods and other dishes, almost forcing the family (particularly Chip) to eat them.

What may seem like a confusing mix of multiple storylines, The Night Strangers really is an impressive genre-bending piece of fiction. As with past books, Bohjalian melds ancient practices (in this case “witchcraft) with the present. The Night Strangers  turned out to be a very different book than I expected.  It’s not simply a ghost story, but also a family’s attempts to recover after tragedy amidst a town full of secrets. It is a book that you do not rush through; the pacing is slow, complementing the building and development of the characters along with the storyline.  Those looking for a quick, surface level ghost story will be disappointed, for The Night Strangers really is quite the complex novel, with many different layers to sift through. It is a book I will find myself rereading, for it has so much depth to it that I guarantee I will pick up on bits and pieces I missed along the way.

My only complaint would be the continuous references to “Sully” Sullenberger and the landing of flight 1549 in the Hudson River.  I feel a few mentions would be enough.  Perhaps it was done to reiterate how devastated Chip was by the loss of passengers, his failure at landing a plane as Sully did. Ultimately, however, I found myself skipping passages in which Sully was mentioned. Additionally, I feel adding so many references to an actual “modern” event detracts from the story, lessens the life of the storyline.  Years down the road, readers unfamiliar to this event will be left confused.

Bottom line: If you are looking for a literary mystery/horror, filled to the brim with complex characters and storyline, then this is the book for you! Highly recommended.

 *Warning: Due to the subject matter, I would not recommend reading this book while on a plane, or immediately prior to boarding a plane!*


19 Responses to “Mx3: Review: The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian”

  1. Nora-Adrienne Deret
    Twitter: NoraAdrienne

    Interesting review and story. My younger son was actually involved in the passenger rescue of flight 1549. He’s one of the Disaster Co-ordinators for NYC Office of Emergency Management. It was his project.

    I’ll have to read the book now.

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      That’s the thing about this book: It doesn’t fit into any single genre. I’d call it horror because there are ghosts, but also a thriller due to the intense feeling of suspense throughout the entire book. I think you’ll like this one!

  2. Becky
    Twitter: BeckyLeJeune

    Fabulous review, Jenn! I’ve been eyeballing this one for some time now and will have to put it on the To Buy list for sure!

  3. Bob
    Twitter: guildedearlobe

    Looking forward to listening to this when I get my copy. I glad that Mark Bramhall is one of the narrators, I have really begun to enjoy his work. Thanks for the review.

  4. SuziQoregon

    I just skimmed your review because I haven’t read this yet. I’ve only read one other Bohjalian book (The Buffalo Soldier) but I loved it and this one definitely caught my eye,

    I have it and really need to get to it soon. I was going to read it on a trip that involves flying to Atlanta soon, but after seeing your warning on twitter about not reading this on an airplane, I decided I need to plan differently.

  5. Anita

    I love Bohjalian’s work, and I really want to read this, so different. Your review is so well done too Jenn, you always make me want to buy more books, tsk tsk!

  6. Chrisbookarama
    Twitter: Chrisbookarama

    I’m waiting on this from the library so I didn’t look too hard at your review. I’m glad you liked it though!

  7. dogearedcopy
    Twitter: dogearedcopy

    LOL, Last April, at The Books on the Nightstand Retreat, Chris Bohjalian was one of the authors there. He is an extremely engaging speaker; but he was talking about what to do in the event of a plane crash (“emergency landing.”) This didn’t bother most of the people present because many drove; but I had an 6 hour flight across three time zones and a stopover ahead of me!

    I repeat his advice to my daughter sotto voce on every flight we take now, right after the flight attendants give their presentation. I speak low, because it makes many more people uneasy than not, as I once discovered when I gave instructions to my daughter a little too audibly for the lady-in-front-of-me’s taste!

    This sounds like a book I could easily get into! I have my own intense fear of a corner in my parent’s basement; but that is definitely for another time, perhaps a #Mx3 post in its own right!

  8. Julie
    Twitter: JulieJustReads

    As discussed via twitter I was enthralled with this book as well. It definitely spoke to many different genres. While you thought you were getting one story, he crept in another story along the way as well. Both storylines were intriguing. The ending was a doozy. 🙂

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