The Night Country
Stewart O'Nan
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The Night Country
Stewart O'Nan
240 pages
October 2004
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Stewart OíNan, author of novels such as A Prayer for the Dying and Snow Angels, takes the ghost story genre and makes it his own in his new novel, The Night Country. Set one year after a Halloween car accident that took the lives of three teenagers and left the two survivors and the investigating police officer irrevocably changed, The Night Country is told from the point of view of the three dead teenagers: Marco, Toe and Danielle. They have been following around survivors Tim and Kyle and Officer Brooks because they know that the anniversary of their deaths will be another horrific day.

Through their eyes, we watch Brooksí life slowly fall apart. His wife has left him, his career is going down the tubes, and the only thing he has left is the comfort of his two faithful dogs. We watch Kyle slog through his days, a completely different person than he was before the accident due to severe brain damage and a reconstructed face. And finally, we watch Tim. Although Tim survived the crash physically intact, he has not felt whole since that night. Each day he misses his friends and desperately wishes he can be with his girlfriend Danielle again. And, through the plan he intends to carry out on Halloween, he thinks he will able to make that wish reality.

A dark and haunting tale, The Night Country does take time to get into, but once you get used to OíNanís sometimes uneven narrative, youíll be hooked. The unique perspective of the three dead teenagers gives us the perfect vantage point to see how so many lives have been changed by a single, fateful incident. We get into the minds of Tim, Kyleís mother and Brooks, but unfortunately donít get to know much about the three who are telling the tale (especially Marco, the main storyteller). However, since this is ultimately a story about Tim, it makes sense that the others should just be bit players.

As tales of ghosts and tragedy usually are, The Night Country is bleak and unforgiving. If youíre looking for a tale of hope and redemption, this isnít the book you want. But, if youíre interested in immersing yourself in OíNanís disturbing world of the town of Avon on a momentous Halloween night, give this one a try.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Angela McQuay, 2005

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