The Night Strangers – Chris Bohjalian [Book Review]

The Night Strangers

Chris Bohjalian

Book Review

Chip Linton was a pilot, a pilot who was unable to safely land his damaged plane on Lake Champlain after a gaggles of geese destroyed the engine. Although he is not at fault, he can’t forgive himself himself for the 39 people that died. Chip, his wife Emily and their Twin daughters Hallie and Garnet decide they need a fresh start, and move to an old victorian house in Northern New Hampshire – into a house that has a mysterious door in the basement with 39 bolts. The move does not solve the problems – things seem to be getting worse. Emily doesn’t know why her husband is getting more ill, and what the deal is with the “herbalist” women in the village and whether any of this is a threat to her and her family.

Firstly, I would like to comment on how well written this book is. I liked Chris Bohjalian’s writing style very much. He switches narrator, narrative style and between past and present as the story unfolds on the pages. This allowed for lots of cliffhangers and lets you see the story through multiple eyes. I find that books like this really keep me interested and engaged while I’m reading :).

The story lines are definitely creepy! My favourite creepy parts were Chip’s visions and and the scenes where Chip was alone in the house. The atmosphere is well developed and I had an “eerie” sensation while reading most of Chip’s parts. The link between the supernatural aspects of the books and Chip’s Post traumatic Stress Disorder from the accident are so closely woven that it is hard to work out what is and isn’t just in his head.

Unfortunately the second main story line in the book is the women of their little town – known as “herbalists”. As soon as I started reading these parts I felt a little disappointed at the thought that I was about to read another books with a coven/witchcraft/satanists! (I’m not saying which might be in this novel).  I am not suggesting that this is a particularly bad storyline, but I have now read 3 books over the last 4 months with this idea, and I am just getting a little bored of it now. The connection between the herbalists and the supernatural PTSD things at the house are not even clearly linked – which frustrated me even more!

There are obvious links in the book to “classic horror” themes – an old house, creepy basement, isolated location etc. This did not detract from my enjoyment of the book, however, I would suggest that parts of the book could have been a little more original or inventive.

Chip was by far the most interesting character – he felt genuine and his scenes and narration were extremely good. I liked Emily a little less, she seemed very naive and reluctant to stand up for herself or trust her gut instincts. The twins had a good role in the story, but they didn’t “sound” like 10 year olds in the book, their speech and thoughts seemed very mature – even for children who have had a traumatic event and a lot to cope with.

Overall, I enjoyed bits of ‘The Night Strangers’ – the writing, the layout and pace of the novel, Chip’s scenes and the supernatural and PTSD scenes. Unfortunately, the “herbalist” story line was not my favourite and the ending of the book was disappointing for me as well. I will definitely try reading more of Chris Bohjalian’s work, and see if I can find his other story lines more satisfactory.

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