The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian – A Book Review

The Night Strangers begins with a bang and draws the reader into a story that cannot be denied.  Unfortunately, everything that works in the first half of the book is abandoned to an inferior sub plot and finally ends in one of the most dissatisfying conclusions that I’ve ever read.

Chip Linton suffers extreme depression after failing to land his passenger plane on a lake.  This failed attempt results in thirty-nine people dying.  Bohjalian depicts an incredibly captivating and horrifying crash, and he won me over right then and there thanks to his mastery of both tension and pacing.

The Linton family moves to a new state and a new home in northern New Hampshire.  A ghost story ensues, one that is smartly written and enticing.  Is it the house that is haunted, or is it Chip himself?  Will this haunting cost Chip his marriage, life, or perhaps even the lives of his twin daughters?  I honestly couldn’t wait to see what happened next.  Bohjalian captured the tone of a family in distress; he delivered a suffering father; he made me care about the Lintons.

And then, sadly, Bohjalian deserted this family to focus upon a group of herbalist/witches that need the twin girls for their own nefarious intentions.  The Night Strangers, at that point, became a boring, genre-driven work that failed to connect to the reader on any emotional level.  The author gave far too much attention to these herbalists, their green houses, and he became too preoccupied with getting each and every herb just right.  Frankly, I didn’t find the herbalist the least bit interesting and their herbs were of absolutely no concern to me.

I wanted my story focusing upon the Lintons back, but Bohjalian refused.  In fact, after striving so hard to make us relate to them, to see ourselves in them, to love them, he turned them into nothing more than tools to provide an insipid, heartless ending that proved to be extraordinarily inconsistent with previously established characterization.

The first half of The Night Strangers was an amazing, creepy, disturbing read that I couldn’t put down.  The last half of The Night Strangers was an utter contradiction of the first, and I’ve never felt more cheated and disappointed by an ending in all my years of reading.

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