Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Narrated by: Alison Fraser and Mark Bramhall.
Publisher: Random House Audio.
Favorite character: Garnet.
All in all: Not quite what I had hoped it was going to be, but a creepy story nonetheless.
Synopsis: In a dusty corner of a basement in a rambling Victorian house in northern New Hampshire, a door has long been sealed shut with 39 six-inch-long carriage bolts.
The home's new owners are Chip and Emily Linton and their twin ten-year-old daughters. Together they hope to rebuild their lives there after Chip, an airline pilot, has to ditch his 70-seat regional jet in Lake Champlain after double engine failure. Unlike the Miracle on the Hudson, however, most of the passengers aboard Flight 1611 die on impact or drown. The body count? Thirty-nine – a coincidence not lost on Chip when he discovers the number of bolts in that basement door. Meanwhile, Emily finds herself wondering about the women in this sparsely populated White Mountain village – self-proclaimed herbalists – and their interest in her fifth-grade daughters. Are the women mad? Or is it her husband, in the wake of the tragedy, whose grip on sanity has become desperately tenuous? ~Goodreads.com
My Thoughts: A good ole' fashioned haunted house story? That's what I first thought when I started listening to The Night Strangers. However, it turns out to not quite be a haunted house story, but there is definitely something creepy and strange going on. Whether it is because Chip is the captain of an airplane that crashed as well as one of the survivors or because the town seems to be filled with malevolent people I wasn't quite sure until several chapters into the story.
This book is unique (for me) in that it is told through 2nd person narration in protagonist Chip's point of view (ex: You go down the stairs, etc.) and 3rd person for his wife Emily, their children and some of the supporting characters. The second person point of view served to keep Chip at arm's length for me further isolating him. It also helped to create a mystery as to whether he is really being haunted or is suffering from a mental breakdown. I applaud the author because I thought this an interesting choice, and I understand why he chose to craft his story that way. However, it took some getting used to.
The telling and summing up in the book doesn't work for me. A lot seems unnecessary. However, the details of aviation and flying were so well thought out and researched it added authenticity to the story. At the same time, the details of the plane crash are rehashed again and again. The man is obviously traumatized, but there is not a lot of mention of him working things out. He has a psychiatrist, but where were the therapists and the survivor's group? Was he supposed to be portrayed as that stoic? Maybe so, but the constant comparing himself to Sully Sullenberg and him landing his plane successfully on the Hudson and saving everyone to me only added to his guilt ridden state of mind.
I also didn't feel very attached to any of the characters. The most interesting were Chip and Emily's two ten year old twins, Garnet and Hailey, and I would have liked to see more of their point of view, more of their thoughts. I also didn't understand why Emily (and I'm not saying Chip because he is so distant from everything in this book) didn't think the behavior of some of the townspeople was just inappropriate if not creepy. The way they talked about her children would have at least had me searching the internet for the sex offender registry. The plot reminded me of those television movies in the 70s where there is something sinister afoot. It was a bit over the top and at the same time kind of fun and kind of a guilty pleasure.
I liked Mark Bramhall's narration better than Alison Fraser's. Unfortunately, I just couldn't quite buy her interpretations. (I think I'm really picky when it comes to audio narration.)
Also the ending felt a tad rushed and while I kind of wanted to know how it finally ended, it wasn't that climactic. The epilogue especially was at once ironic and unsatisfactory as the story revisits the characters and the town ten years later.
My advice is if you're going to read this, don't go in expecting a traditional haunted house story. The story is more about Chip's ghosts from his plane crash and the effect the incident has on him and the scary people in their new town and what they're up to.