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That Night

3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,096 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews
On a warm suburban night, the sound of lawn sprinklers is drowned out by the rumble of hot rods. Suddenly a car careens onto a family's neat front yard, teenage boys spill out brandishing chains and leather, and a young man cries out for the girl he loves. Tonight fathers will pick up snow shovels and rakes to defend their turf, and children will witness a battle fueled by ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published January 12th 1999 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published 1987)
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Pulitzer Prize Finalists
19th out of 68 books — 66 voters
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My Name is Alice
28th out of 66 books — 13 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,525)
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Mar 02, 2013 Amy rated it it was ok
I hunted down this out-of-print book for a while before I got my hands on a "brand new" copy, and I was a little disappointed. I made the mistake of seeing (and loving) the movie first; in fact it was on HBO all the time when I was about the narrator's age on "that night," and I would watch it repeatedly. I haven't seen it in about 15 years, and one day it just occurred to me to read the book. I thought there would be drama and romance and a lot more about the relationship between Sheryl and Ali ...more
May 02, 2012 Bradley rated it it was amazing

This book is an old standby of mine. I reread it yet again over the weekend. Indeed, it feels like a favorite song from the very first line:

"When he came to claim her, he stood on the short lawn before her house, his knees bent, his fists driven into his thighs, and bellowed her name with such passion that even the friends who surrounded him, who had come to support him, to drag her from the house, to murder her family if they had to, let the chains they carried go limp in their hands."

That Nig
Dan Phillips
Sep 30, 2012 Dan Phillips rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I read McDermott's Charming Billy years ago, and even though I couldn't tell you a single plot point from that novel, after reading one page of That Night, I felt a familiar hush and tingle. McDermott writes the kind of sentences that make you want to linger and savor them - deliberately crafted, yet with an effortless feel. It's a quality of voice she shares with my wife, actually...

As for the story, it reminded me a bit of The Virgin Suicides. Only the narrator of That Night is a woman who's r
Heather *live on coffee and flowers*
I saw the movie of this on TV like, a really long time ago. I want to watch it now, since I remember nothing about it, but there's no way I'm paying $20 for a VHS tape.

Anyway, I just found out about the book. And my library has it. *REQUESTED*
Oct 09, 2014 Benjy rated it it was amazing
I can't fully explain why but this is probably favorite book I've read in the past year or so. I'm still troubled by how the narration works (there's no way she can know much of what she tells) and sometimes the fragmentation would push me out of the proper headspace. But the language! The little vignettes that could stand on their own as wholly satisfying reading experiences! Everyone has experienced teen angst and yet this book enabled this reader to experience it freshly and as a source of ex ...more
Joan Winnek
Dec 19, 2009 Joan Winnek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have been reading everything by Alice McDermott I can get my hands on, and this early novel did not disappoint. Both sad and funny. Wonderful writing. The chapter just before the beginning of Part Two, pp. 107-114 in the hardback edition, contains one of the funniest conversations ever, and bunch of children sharing their inaccurate knowledge of how a pregnancy occurs.
Jul 12, 2016 Martha rated it it was amazing
I had this book on a shelf for a while and picked it up because I didn't have a library book and thought it would bridge the time until one came in. What a surprise this little book packed! I couldn't put it down once I started. The author mixes large, profound themes with ordinary life, permeating barriers like the walls of houses, even the walls of lives and individual thought with a narrative that floats like a ghost over an ordinary suburban neighborhood of the 1960s. Love, death, longing, ...more
Oct 26, 2008 Valerie rated it liked it
That Night is a novel that focused mainly on one violent night in a suburban community in the early sixties. When Sheryl is suddenly shipped off to live with her aunt and uncle due to an unplanned pregnancy, her boyfriend Rick and his friends (in an attempt to rescue her) clash with the older generation of the neighborhood as their children watch.

Told mostly through the viewpoint of 10-year-old Alice (one of Sheryl's neighbors) at different points in her life, the novel's telling branches off f
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
An intriguing book for those of a certain age who remember when, who experienced summer life in the New York suburbs in the early 60's. The story revolves around two star-crossed teenagers whose burdensome back- grounds draw them into love, sex and pregnancy at which point they are governed by outside forces. "That Night" refers to the night unlike any night when the boyfriend and his tough guy friends arrive at the girlfriend's house, demanding to see her. She has been shipped out of town and t ...more
Caroline Cottom
Aug 13, 2014 Caroline Cottom rated it it was amazing
This book was a delight to read. I was charmed by it. I loved the structure, with the entire book turning on "that night," everything moving backward or forward from that event. I also loved McDermott's writing, which I find hard to describe. She writes with a light touch, using fresh, unexpected descriptions. After I read the book, I went to some of my other favorite books to compare the writing styles. McDermott won, hands down.
Oct 28, 2009 Harriet rated it it was amazing
I am so moved by this novel, the way it grows so quietly, and spreads among various points of view, various characters, so that you go deeper and deeper into the story of one night. Her deftness with voice stuns me, and I'm trying to learn from it.
David Gallin-Parisi
May 21, 2012 David Gallin-Parisi rated it really liked it
Found myself re-reading pages 35-55 and felt everything was too repeated, boring, and dazed. I did not enjoy this book at first. McDermott writes with really long sentences, using lots of commas and junctions from clause to clause. Then I decided to read this like a diary, and enjoy the long sentences. They're attempts to describe everything, from a person's perspective who sees almost everything there is to see. Views from one night in a small suburb, the events that led up to that night, and t ...more
Christopher MacMillan
Sep 08, 2011 Christopher MacMillan rated it it was ok
Clearly inspired by other doomed teen romances like "Rebel Without a Cause" and "West Side Story", Alice McDermott's "That Night" is the story of a teen pregnancy, and the series of events this sets into motion against the backdrop of suburban America.

The book takes place in the early 1960s, and one hot summer's evening - as we see through the eyes of the young girl who lives across the street - a hoodlum named Rick and his fellow troublemakers show up on the front lawn of Rick's girlfriend Sher
Beth Riches
Dec 14, 2015 Beth Riches rated it really liked it
This story broke my heart a little bit.

It takes place in early the early '60s in a post-war suburb. Beyond the story of lost innocence and lost love, the longing for things to remain the same is heart-wrenching and maddening at the same time.

The easy judgmental attitudes of the families in their cookie-cutter homes is very familiar to me. The bonding through scandalous events is both small-minded and validating. The need to substitute something, anything, for that which has been lost is unders
Sep 14, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it
Shelves: english-major
Erin, I know this isn't your usual style but I think you'd enjoy it. It's short, gripping, and extremely well written. The action (boy meets girl, boy looses girl) is narrated by a neighbor girl who is 10 on That Night, and the picture of childhood through her eyes reminds me a little of Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. But the narrator also gives us glimpses of her grown-up life and how things turned out for her family and other families in their neighborhood. The book is full of reflections on w ...more
Alice McDermott is one of the greatest contemporary American writers, and "That Night" is one of the best novels on teenage love I ever read.
Jul 01, 2015 Sahasrahla rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Here and there something in this book resonated with me but only occasionally. Mostly, to me, this was a book of the bleak suburban life of American girls and women in the 1960s. I like to read about lives outside of my own experience (isn't that what many of us look for when we read?) but I just couldn't make myself care about any of the characters. Everything was grey and drab and was depressed by a sense of existential angst that their mundane lives could be jolted by the death of a loved one ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Mar 16, 2016 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it it was amazing
Shelves: women-s-fiction
A masterpiece. I wish I'd read this book this morning when I was still able to write coherently instead of midnight when I'm in the last seven hours of a twenty-four hour read-a-thon.

I loved the way the author switches from first person singular narrator to first person plural narrator in the story. I also loved the way the author provides little glimpses of the future for the characters who pop into the narrative. These give the story a big vision both broad and yet full of disappointment.
Bonnie Moore
Mar 31, 2015 Bonnie Moore rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this little book. I like Alice McDermott. I read "Charming Billy" a few years ago and liked it.
May 20, 2008 Padraic rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-and-loved
I hung up on this woman once. She's a wonderful writer, and a nice human being - even if you hang up on her. I read this while working at the Westport Public Library, the first serious work of literary fiction I read since bombing out of grad school ten years earlier. Her evocation of growing up in the Catholic suburbs, and of long summer evenings dominated by the sounds of parents and kids, made me realize I didn't hate literature, despite failing at academia. Thank you, Alice.
Jan 05, 2008 Kim rated it it was ok
I'm not sure how this ended up in my 'to read' list. I think it was one of those cases of 'if you like this book then you'll like THIS book'... well, I really didn't. It might be that I just came off a book that I really really did like, but this didn't capture me at all. I read it because of the investment of starting it more than anything. I don't think that the writing is horrid or anything, but the story just didn't capture my attention all that much.
English Education
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Apr 12, 2015 Roanna rated it it was amazing
My first Alice McDermott and Wow! She is truly an amazing writer! How can a simple story with a simple premise be this beautifully written and moving? I devoured every sentence. I love her ability to make a simple event extremely extraordinary without being overly done by her amazing writing. They were just perfect. I find myself going back and repeating some phrases. I cannot wait to read her other books!
Sheila DeChantal
Jun 17, 2014 Sheila DeChantal rated it liked it
It is no secret that I adore Chevy Stevens. When I listened to Still Missing on audio I was floored at how engaged I became with her well written story of a missing girl. Since then I have eagerly awaited each release of her books.

That Night was a twisted read that hits hard on the hot topic of bullying. The girls in the book made Toni’s life unbearable and I could not imagine being in her shoes. As you will find out if read the book, things are not much easier for her in prison; it’s just a dif
Oct 17, 2007 Christiane rated it it was amazing
This is an early Alice McDermott (1987) book which I missed somehow, until a website of favorite books urged me to read it. I do believe this is a perfect novel. It is short (I read it in two days), compelling, and beautifully written.
Of course, I remember, and relate, to this era--perhaps a younger generation would not truly understand it.
Nov 12, 2014 Jane rated it really liked it

Having grown up in the 50's just a little before the days of hotrods, pegged pants, teased hair, too much makeup, and lotsa, lotsa burning love, I feel a great sense of nostalgia after reading this book, a little gem about the effect of teen love on the residents of a neighborhood in suburbia. Very romantic, and yet very sad.
Jan 18, 2014 Anabelle rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Sue, Mom, Jocelyn
Shelves: 2014
I found this book quite beautifully written. I love how McDermott shows the night in question from different vantage points. We experience it as it is unfolding, and as the narrator looks back on it, and in moments leading up to it as well. We see it from our narrator's 10-year old perspective and from when she's older and has herself experienced a pregnancy and the dissolution of a marriage. We see into the grief-stricken homes of the couple of the night: Sheryl, who, until that night, lived wi ...more
Jun 13, 2016 Nicole rated it really liked it
Really more of a 3.8

Different than the movie, yet no less amazing and lovely and deserving of that knowledge. It is not that the book, while written before the film, is better because of its presence in the order of things nor is the movie better because perhaps it gives a bit more of want our hearts long for, rather they are both equally on par with being romantic and tragic within each's own right.

The book is well written, captivating, a sort of beautiful tragedy that is life.
It's the kind
Karolyn Sherwood
Chapter one of this novel was assigned to me by a writing teacher as an example of a "promising" novel opening. In deed, the opening chapter presented an intriguing situation and left me with many questions about the rest of the story. So I bought the book. In brief, THAT NIGHT is about a teenage couple in the early 60s that is torn apart after the girl gets pregnant and sent away.

Published in 1987, THAT NIGHT by Alice McDermott, is one of the rare books where the narrator is not the protagonis
Jun 12, 2013 Dana rated it did not like it
Shelves: chick-lit
I had wanted to read this book for a long time, mainly because I saw the movie as a child and I loved it. The book is so different from the movie, it's like two completely different stories. Unfortunately, I liked the movie better.
The book deals with teenage Sheryl and her greaser boyfriend Rick. When Sheryl realizes that she's pregnant, her mother immediately ships her off to relatives in Ohio to await the birth of her baby. Sheryl doesn't get to say goodbye to Rick. That Night deals with the a
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Alice McDermott (born June 27, 1953) is Johns Hopkins University's Writer-in-Residence. Born in Brooklyn, New York, McDermott attended St. Boniface School in Elmont, Long Island, NY [1967], Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead NY [1971], the State University of New York at Oswego, receiving her BA in 1975, and later received her MA from the University of New Hampshire in 1978.

She has taught at the UC
More about Alice McDermott...

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“That night when he came to claim her, he stood on the short lawn before her house, his knees bent, his fists driven into his thighs, and bellowed her name with such passion that even the friends who surrounded him, who had come to support him, to drag her from the house, to murder her family if they had to,” 0 likes
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