Book Review: The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian
I’ve read quite a few books by Chris Bohjalian, and one of my favorites of his is The Double Bind. I haven’t read anything until this point that compared to that book as to how it evoked feeling within me. I was curious as to this book, The Night Strangers, when I read the synopsis because I do enjoy a good ghost story. When you throw in the aspect of psychological trauma and mental thriller, well, I wonder if Chris Bohjalian tailor-made this book for me? I began reading this book right around Halloween and that made it even better for me in that the skies around my house were turning gray and the wind was blowing and the day I finished this book it was a dark and spooky night that was pouring rain. It was one of those nights that gives you the shivers by its very nature and it added to the drama of this book. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about the plot for a minute.
The public fascination with a pilot’s heroic landing in the Hudson is at the forefront of every pilot’s mind. Some pilots have looked at “Sully’s” real life landing as the fantasy job–the chance to show off amazing skill, save the passengers and fly the best planes while gaining fame for being the best at his job. Chris Linton is one of those pilots. He’s fantasized and read about everything Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger did since he heard about the landing. What Chris doesn’t realize is that he is about to have his chance to pull a Sully.
The beginning of the novel takes us into the cockpit of a plane heading for disaster. Chris and his co-pilot Amy are flying a routine flight when they hit a flock of geese who are sucked into their engines, causing a stall-out and forcing Chris to make the decision to land in the local lake. When Chris makes a solid landing, a ferry sends a wave over the plane and capsizes it breaking it into pieces. Thirty-nine passengers die, including his co-pilot, and Chris is deeply traumatized. This trauma seeps into his homelife with his wife, Emily, and twin daughters, Hallie and Garnet. Emily makes the decision to leave her law-firm and move the family to the sleepy little town of Bethel, far from the paparazzi, so Chris can find himself again and the family can have some peace. What Emily doesn’t know is that the town of Bethel has secrets of its own.
Emily is immediately confronted by a couple of the townspeople who attempt to warn her about the “herbalists” that she spends her time with and the house that she and her family bought. They say little, though, and seem fearful to give her details. Eventually, these interactions will come back to haunt Emily as her family becomes more and more drawn into what is happening in the town greenhouses and a story of a murder that took place in her own home. Will Emily be able to save her family and keep Chris from falling into the madness that threatens to consume him?
The book was full of twists, paranormal turns and small truths. There were times that events in the book were incredibly plausible yet so far-fetched that it made me question the line between sanity and insanity and reality and fiction. Could it happen? Yes. Could it be true? Maybe. The ending was shocking to me, to say the least, and never did I feel like I knew with absolute certainty what was happening at any point. I did feel a couple of events were predictable, but only because Chris Bohjalian is a master at putting out the fishing line and then reeling me in.
If you like a thriller with a little bit of psychological mischief and little bit of shivering your timbers, grab this book. If you want a book that is entertaining and yet you might need to take a break from it at night, grab this book. If you want a book that is worth the money you spent on it because it will entertain you over the long haul, grab this book. By far, his best work to date.
Note: I got this book for free in order to review it. Thank you for allowing me to share my opinions with others.