New Fiction Review: The Night Strangers

Get ready for a spooky ride with The Night Strangers, by Chris Bohjalian.

After Chip, a seasoned pilot, crashes a plane into Lake Champlain and loses the vast majority of his passengers to the water, he and his family move to an old Victorian mansion in New Hampshire’s mountains. Chip and his wife, Emily, have two twin daughters, Hallie and Garnet, who are ten years old. They all have a very bumpy start to their new lives. The mansion is very old and has several secret passages and locked doors. Chip is haunted by the plane crash and some of the passengers. Their neighbors appear to be nice in the beginning, but soon after Chip and Emily start to discover that the women are in a coven and are deeply involved in witchcraft. The ending has one giant twist that I never saw coming, which left goosebumps on my arms–  even after I laid the book down and covered it with a blanket so I didn’t have to look at it anymore. At first glance, the cover of the advanced reader copy is intriguing – two girls (obviously Hallie and Garnet) in a meadow. But after you’ve finished the book, you’ll never look at the cover the same way again. I have seen that the actual cover of the book is different, which is slightly disappointing to me.

This story is written from the point of view of several of the characters, including Chip, Emily, Garnet, Hallie, and a neighbor. Most of the story is written in third person, except for a sprinkling of Chip’s second-person point of view. Through this second person perspective, we are able to see inside Chip’s mind. The reader is walked through the plane crash and through Chip’s nightmares about what else could have gone wrong.

This novel had the potential to be cheesy, but Bohjalian did a great job of staying in the realm of creepy and eerie. I must confess that several times I was reading late into the night and decided to put the book down so I wouldn’t have nightmares. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart, or anyone who will be getting on a plane in the next few weeks. Bohjalian does such a fantastic job of describing the plane crash and the passengers’ drowning that it’s easy to imagine the experience for yourself. 

I think that Justin Cronin said it best in his review for Amazon: “It’s a psychological thriller. It’s a domestic drama, the story of a family coping with the aftermath of dislocation and disaster. It’s a book about a specifically American locale, in this case a small town in a remote corner of New Hampshire. It’s a classic New England ghost story, and a hell of a good one.”

So, if you’re looking for a fantastically spooky novel to leave you unsettled on Halloween night, pick up The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian.

What are some other awesome ghost stories you’d recommend?

— Kristen B.