Wednesday, September 26, 2012
The Night Strangers
The Night Strangers is Chris Bohjalian's latest work exploring the depths of human emotion and behavior. Chip Linton is an airline pilot recovering from a well-publicized plane crash in which 39 passengers are killed. To move along the healing process, Chip and his wife, Emily, move their twin daughters to a small town in New Hampshire to start fresh. Their new home is admittedly a bit dark and has incredibly creepy wallpaper, not to mention the small door in the basement bolted with 39 locks (the spooky number of locks is not lost on either Chip or Emily). Things get complicated when the Lintons get to know their neighbors, the 'herbalists,' who seem oddly interested in their 10-year-old daughters. Chip begins having very real interactions with victims of his plane crash, who feel the 'breathers' owe them something; will Chip actually go through with what the ghosts are asking of him? What's with all the baking and 'tinctures' the herbalists make in their own greenhouses? What exactly is buried behind the door in the basement?
I was hoping this would be a story of recovering from extreme loss, and coming to terms with a new place, both geographically and emotionally. The first half of The Night Strangers is riveting and spine-tingling, with points-of-view from Chip, Emily, the twins, and one of the herbalists, and goes into the thought process of a man grappling with survivor guilt, a marriage on the rocks, and daughters trying to figure out their place in a small town. When Bohjalian brings in the herbalists as main characters, things get a bit too 'The Crucible' for my taste, and I was disappointed with the ending. Perhaps read through page 200ish, then come up with your own ending?