*Trigger warning. This book has graphic violence and sexual content
When Nora begins to hallucinate about a blond haired, blue-eyed child with no body, her carefully crafted life as a wife, mother and high school teacher slowly falls apart. She begins seeing a psychiatrist when no biological solution can be found for her visions or frequent headaches. What emerges from these sessions is the truth about her past. Will what she has never been able to face shatter her or will she be able to embrace her past and move forward into the future?
To begin with, there is a great deal of promise in this debut novel. It is a fast-paced adventure which I read in one sitting. It definitely needs a TRIGGER WARNING as the content deals with childhood sexual assault, occasionally quite graphically. Anna Quinn’s writing is beautiful, often haunting and poetic. She draws the reader in and makes you chase her breathlessly to the resolution.
However, I was disappointed that the book was so ruthlessly plot driven. From the opening sentence we are thrust violently into the action with no reason to sympathise with, trust or even like Nora, the protagonist. I wanted the story to slow down occasionally, allowing me to take a breath and understand the characters more deeply. Even Nora’s husband Paul , who tried to be a two-dimensional jerk in the book, felt that with a little development and nuance could become a complex and sympathetic character. Perhaps this is a matter of taste and character development isn’t what’s wanted in a thriller. But I felt like this book danced on the edge of something much richer and more complex which I would have liked to see come to fruition. I sense that Ms. Quinn has the skill to produce something more than a “non-stop thrill ride” and I hope to see her develop that in further efforts.
From the publisher:
All Nora Brown wants is to teach high school English and live a quiet life in Seattle with her husband and six-year-old daughter. But one November day, moments after dismissing her class, a girl’s face appears above the students’ desks—a wild numinous face with startling blue eyes, a face floating on top of shapeless drapes of purples and blues where arms and legs should have been. Terror rushes through Nora’s body—the kind of raw terror you feel when there’s no way out, when every cell in your body, your entire body, is on fire—when you think you might die.
Twenty-four hours later, while on Thanksgiving vacation, the face appears again. This time, it whispers, Remember the Valentine’s dress. Shaken once again, Nora meets with neurologists and eventually, a psychiatrist. As the story progresses, a terrible secret is discovered—a secret that pushes Nora toward an even deeper psychological breakdown.
The Night Child is a breathtaking story about split consciousness, saving a broken child, and the split between past and present. It’s about the extraordinary capacity within each of us to save ourselves through visionary means.