REVIEW: THE NIGHT VISITORS, BY CAROL GOODMAN

 

ALICE gets off a bus in the middle of a snowstorm in Delphi, NY. She is fleeing an abusive relationship and desperate to protect…

OREN, ten years old, a major Star Wars fan and wise beyond his years. Though Alice is wary, Oren bonds nearly instantly with…

MATTIE, a social worker in her fifties who lives in an enormous run-down house in the middle of the woods. Mattie lives alone and is always available, and so she is the person the hotline always calls when they need a late-night pickup. And although according to protocol Mattie should take Alice and Oren to a local shelter, instead she brings them home for the night. She has plenty of room, she says. What she doesn’t say is that Oren reminds her of her little brother, who died thirty years ago at the age of ten.

But Mattie isn’t the only one withholding elements of the truth. Alice is keeping her own secrets. And as the snowstorm worsens around them, each woman’s past will prove itself unburied, stirring up threats both within and without.

My Thoughts: I was immediately swept up into the drama of The Night Visitors as Alice and Oren get off the bus and are pulled into the unknown life ahead of them. Fleeing abuse, but not sure who they can trust, Alice braces herself against the challenges ahead.

Alice and Mattie’s stories are told in alternating narratives, and we learn more about their lives and their experiences as their stories unfold.

I could relate to Mattie, having had a career in social work. Her own family life was full of secrets and dark judgments, so I could empathize with how she had struggled.

Alice’s secrets brought darkness into their new lives, and because she wasn’t sure if she could trust Mattie, she almost lost the opportunity to accept the good offered to her.

Mysteries seemed to lurk in the old Victorian house where Mattie offers refuge, and I liked the “ghostly elements” in the story. In the end, I was happy that many of the issues were resolved for the characters. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON, BY ELIZABETH STROUT

26155161

 

 

 

From the very beginning of My Name Is Lucy Barton, the reader can sense the emotional neediness of Lucy, our first person narrator. She tells her story in fits and starts, which sweeps back and forth through time.

The impetus for her narrative was Lucy’s hospitalization some time in the 1980s, when an appendectomy resulted in some complications. Unexpectedly, her mother has flown to be by her side, after never having done such a thing in the past. She has come all the way from the farming town of Amgash, Illinois. One could wonder what prompted the visit, but nothing about the mother’s motives are revealed. Theirs is not a loving relationship and never has been. Could the mother have been reaching out, but felt unable to express her need to connect?

The two converse in a rather strange fashion, with Lucy’s mother relaying bits and pieces of information about the townsfolk, as if trying to relate to Lucy in a meaningful way. But everything said between them seems superficial, and whenever Lucy tries to probe for more information, her mother shuts down.

We learn from Lucy’s reflections about growing up as an outsider, looked down upon by other kids in school. Being laughed at for her clothes and where they lived, which was a garage for a while, and then later, a broken down house.

Even now, years later, Lucy’s feeling of being different or less than comes through, although she had a somewhat normal life at the time of her mother’s visit, with a husband and two daughters. She had even attended college on a scholarship…and has a fledgling writing career. A career that takes off later in our story.

The meandering style of the narrative has an autobiographical nature to it, with Lucy trying to make sense of her life, her feelings, and her choices. While I found Lucy’s thoughts and feelings interesting and reflective of a life raised in poverty with the hint of some abuse and neglect, nothing is actually stated clearly. Much is left unsaid. Almost as if the emotional impoverishment of the characters stifled the expression of their experiences. The story left me unfulfilled, in terms of Lucy’s issues, as if more information was just waiting to be brought forth, but somehow was lost in translation. Therefore, 4 stars.