The Night Country
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The Night Country

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  767 ratings  ·  112 reviews
A ghost story that begins in everday tragedy, from a distinctly American master of both forms: a "scary, sad, funny . . . mesmerizing read" (Stephen King)
At Midnight on Halloween in a cloistered New England suburb, a car carrying five teenagers leaves a winding road and slams into a tree, killing three of them. One escapes unharmed, another suffers severe brain damage. A...more
Hardcover, 229 pages
Published October 10th 2003 by Farrar Straus Giroux (first published 2003)
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The Halloween Tree by Ray BradburyGods of The Nowhere by James TipperThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Bo HamptonSomething Wicked This Way Comes by Ray BradburyDracula by Bram Stoker
Best Halloween Books
61st out of 347 books — 358 voters
Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom RobbinsA Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O'NanBright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerneySelf-Help by Lorrie MooreStolen by Lucy Christopher
Books Narrated in the Second Person
10th out of 20 books — 22 voters

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Community Reviews

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I don’t like teenagers. Since I’m not a teenager, and haven’t been for some time, I feel fine saying that. Teenagers are self-involved, narcissistic and utterly boring. They are by turns sullen, indifferent, and hysterical. Thus, it has always been shocking to me (the post-teenage me) that our country allows them to get behind the wheel of an automobile.

Driving is the single most dangerous activity most of us will ever undertake. And yet we allow the roads to be clogged with disinterested, over...more
Jeffrey Keeten
My friend Oren owned a battered, gold colored, extended cab Ram Charger in high school. Outside of town on the road leading to the Jarvis farm, where Oren worked when his pickup would start, was a set of railroad tracks set on a fairly steep hill for Kansas. For fun we used to gun the Ram Charger for all it was worth, getting up as much speed up as we could before going up the incline to the railroad tracks. The speed, the built in ramps would send us airborne. This was real Dukes of Hazzard shi...more
I was given this book a few years ago by a German colleague and I finally opened it up a few weeks ago. O'Nan is a writer who, like Paul Auster, seems to enjoy more literary celebrity in Europe than in the US. His books, translated into German, line the shelves of bookshop windows, you can even find them at airports and train stations. But I'm not sure if he's at all popular or "acclaimed" in the US.

I found this book extremely disturbing, cold and creepy, and it left me feeling horrible and emp...more
Jan 17, 2009 Alexis rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who liked The Lovely Bones...and only people who liked The Lovely Bones
Shelves: fiction
I loved Lobster but didn't care for this. Like other people have said, the teenagers are kind of stereotypes and their voices are annoying. Mostly I just don't care for books that have an extremely straightforward, you might even say, non-existent plot, that are only moved along because the reader has to figure things out based on clues that would be revealed quickly in the course of normal storytelling. You spend half the book figuring out what Tim's plan is, when Tim, the police officer, and a...more
May 17, 2012 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Paul by: Tom T.
In a small New England town on Halloween night, a car hurtles down a wooded road, fails to make a curve and crashes head-on into a tree. Three teens riding in the car are immediately killed, one must resume life with the brain of a child and lacking his trademark rebellious attitude and the fifth survives “intact” but emotionally scarred. Officer Brooks, the first respondent, is also deeply affected by what he has witnessed.

Now, those left behind are forced to alter their lives, live with their...more
Mar 06, 2010 Josiah rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: El
My favorite O'Nan book so far. I noted at least one reviewer who felt that the teenagers seemed whiny and lacked depth, so I approached the book with some trepidation. But I feel that O'Nan really captures what it means to be a teenager. He builds up his portrayal with small details, like disagreements over who gets the shotgun seat and thoughts on the best places to hide drugs. His characters are not the cheerleaders and jocks usually cast in a high-school drama, but the outsiders who feel trap...more
Another book that to me did not live up to its accumulative praises or its nice cover or the promise of its premise. Very stylized and unquestionably well written, this story of the ramifications of car crash just didn't draw me in. For one thing, it is severely mismarketed as a horror novel. While the story does take place on Halloween (both times) and does feature ghosts performing a somewhat very nontraditional haunting of their town and the crash survivors, it is very much a literary novel,...more
The Night Country is the story of the aftermath of a car accident (one year after the fact), that killed three teenagers. It is narrated by Marco (who died). Marco and the other deceased (Danielle and Toe) have come back to follow the two who lived (Tim and Kyle - who is now seriously mentally disabled). Toe, Marco and Danielle have spent the previous year leaping in and out of the lives of people who remember them, at the times they remember them (including while people are in the shower, appar...more
My friend and dissertation director from grad school recommended this years ago. She taught it in one of her Gothic courses, recommended it not only as a good read but also as easily teachable, and added the extra enticement of telling me the chapter titles (all but the prologue) were taken from slasher films--interesting intertextuality. But I shelved it for a long time because, honestly, I hadn't loved the little I'd read by O'Nan in the past. I'm really glad I finally dove into this short nov...more
May 07, 2010 El rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to El by: Josiah
It's been a year since the grisly Halloween car accident that killed Toe, Marco, and Danielle, and disabled Kyle. Tim is a survivor of the accident - while Kyle survives, his mind and body are crippled and he's essentially in a state of limbo. Brooks is the officer who first arrived on the scene of the crash, and the past year has been difficult for him for a myriad of reasons. It's been a year when this story picks up the thread. Toe, Marco, and Danielle are back, visiting those that loved them...more
I can see why people are split on this one. I enjoyed the prologue, but the beginning of chapter one nearly made me put it down. I am one of those people that turns into a crankypants when presented with a present tense narrative if there isn't a VERY compelling reason for the POV choice. Here, I think there is one, but it takes a while for it to become apparent. Some elements of the narration were confusing at first, too. Having to go back and reread when I am totally paying attention (not skim...more
Here's a novel that deserves to be made a poster child for the gentrification of popular fiction. A trio of teenage ghosts haunt their small town as Halloween approaches on the first anniversary of their fatal car wreck. O'Nan mutes the horror overtones of this scenario in favor of a mystery-novel structure (in which he peels back various narrative layers to reveal what actually happened That Night) as well as a tour de force display of his viewpoint prowess. A neo-Americana atmosphere pervades,...more
This short novel takes place on a recent Halloween night in the small affluent town of Avon, Conn. It is the one year anniversary of a car crash involving five teenage friends, three of them are killed. One escapes all physical injuries, and the fifth has facial injuries and brain damage. Then there is the policeman who was on duty that night and was on the scene of the accident and is connected to the fatal accident.

What makes this an interesting read is that the story unfolds through the telli...more
I don't know if I ever read a novelist that shows so much influence from Ray Bradbury. The style is strangely similar. Unfortunately this brief novel doesn't do the Bradbury influence justice. The author puts the reader through a lot of logistical and stylistic calisthenics for a plot that is too simple and ultimately anti-climatic. The characterizations are stiff and stereotypical. Not recommended.
Jared Sandman
This book is a heartbreaking look at the aftermath of tragedy. Told in an etheral style, it doesn't hold much in the way of plot. I usually prefer plot-driven stories over character-driven ones, yet this one held by interest. A great book that explores grief and regret in all its forms.

Welcome, boys and girls, to Mediocre Hour! Here at Horror-Web, we like to dish out all types of entertainment. Sure, we mostly like to stick to the exciting or fantastically bad, but every now and then we like to share with you, our readers, the mundane. Why, you ask? Because we, the staff, feel that by experiencing our pain, you’ll better appreciate our highs and lows. So without further adieu, I give you The Night Country…

Now, before we even begin, lets discuss the fact that this story is not...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
As the first anniversary of their deaths in a Halloween car crash approaches, the ghosts of three teenagers drift through the suburban town of Avon, Connecticut. They are Toe, Danielle, and Marcoe. The crash involved no drugs or alcohol. They were driving too fast on a country road, lost control on a blind curve, and sailed into a tree. Tim and Kyle were also in the car. Danielle was sitting in Tim's lap in the backseat of the car and cushioned the impact. She was catapulted through the windshie...more
Kirjan ytimessä on edellisenä vuonna Halloweenina tapahtunut kohtalokas liikenneonnettomuus, joka jättää jälkensä pienen kaupungin elämään. Ytimen ympäriltä löytyvät kolarista hengissä selvinnyt itsemurhainen nuori, lapsen tasolle aivovamman takia vajonnut poika perheineen, onnettomuudesta pakkomielteen itselleen muodostanut poliisi sekä muutama muu joiden kautta tapahtumia kuvataan. Näiden ulkopuolella, milloin varjoissa milloin ihmisten parissa, kiertävät kolarissa henkensä menettäneet aaveina...more
Jody  Julian
I was really planning on loving this book so just liking it feels like a let down. I had already read a very searing and riveting account by O'Nan of the 1944 circus fire in Hartford, CT. I have respect for this author and also heard rave reviews of this particular book AND I'm a fan of dark story lines. So what could possibly go wrong? I 'should' be giving this book 5 stars! This is a story of a tragic car accident and it's horrific aftermath but the bottom line for me is I just didn't really '...more
Amber Frangos
The final chapter of The Night Country: A Novel was brilliantly written. (No spoiler). O'Nan chose to write the final chapter in rewind that befit the tempo of the book. The spookiness of the story was supported through out by certain characters floating from the afterlife to the present. And, O'Nan is the definition of show-don't-tell. The storyline is simple: Teenagers tragically killed on Halloween, haunt survivors. This premise could have been hokey, cheesy or a script for a Lifetime Movie....more
This is the first O'Nan book I've read, and I heard he was Ray Bradbury (love love love) combined with Stephen King, and a little of his own razzle dazzle, I was pretty stoked to read it. But I was really disappointed. It was really hard to get who the omniscient narrator was, and which kid it was telling most of the story. I figured out at some point that it was Marco (I think?), but it took me a while. Where the novel was going was a mystery to me almost until the end, I guess because there wa...more
Jan 18, 2014 Holly added it
Shelves: audio, re-read, 2013-reads
On re-reading I still really like this Halloween spooky story with its softball moral/ethical questions and quotidian Americana and irascible teenagers whom I don't detest. A little disappointed in the audio version - the reader just read too fast! I like a brisk reading pace for nonfiction books, but here I just couldn't stop to digest anything and the reader's tone rarely changed: Imagine a spoken recording that blitzes through a story narrated by a disgruntled group of dead kids who are simul...more
Jane Doe
Noch ein nicht zuende gelesenes Buch. ich nehme mir trotzdem die Freiheit, darüber zu urteilen: Langatmig. Die Idee an sich ist ja ganz nett, die Geschichte wird aus der Sicht von jugendlichen Geistern geschildert. Jedoch entsprechen diese dem Klischeebild des durchschnittlichen amerikanischen Teenagers und, schlimmer noch, dem langweiligen 0815-Geist à la Casper. Sie erscheinen dort, wo man an sie denkt und sind nicht in der Lage, Gegenstände zu bewegen. also bitte. Dies ist mein 2. Werk von O'...more
Electric Funeral
No matter what the backcover says, this is neither a horror story nor is it especially frightening or haunting. Just because there are ghosts doesn`t mean its horror. It is a detailed study of teenage life in small town america on halloween, of people coping with loss and tragedy each in their own way. There are some strong charcters in there: kyles mom and her desperate attempts at saving a life she lost, tim who is trying so hard to not forget his friends. brooks the cop who is dealing with gu...more
This book was referred to in a review of the author's most recent work. Found a copy in an indie book store (
If one were to consider this book based upon the publisher's misguided idea to have Stephen King's endorsement on the cover and a review from the SF Chronicle that describes it as a horror novel, that would be a serious mistake. It's not a horror novel, so I don't know what Picador (the publisher) was thinking.
Strangely enough, Fangoria's review was a bit closer to t...more
The sterling quality of the writing elevates this novel to where it defies genre. It's so deep and true and profoundly sad. The writer seems to be exploring what being haunted means, not just by "ghosts" but by guilt, regret and even duty. His heros are both the haunted and the haunters. At the beginning, it took me some time to get my bearings and get used to the p.o.v. Also, it felt a little circular and repetitious at the get-go. But this is precisely the intent--this feeling slightly lost in...more
oops, I finished this a bit late. well - although it's set at Halloween and a lot of the characters are dead, it's not a particularly seasonal or spooky story. I found that some of the writing was incredibly lovely and very distinctive, but I also had a really hard time getting into or caring about the story. The characters were all things, not people. Like, the aforementioned dead characters are teenagers who died in a car crash and all they are is "teenagers:" surly, rebellious, smokin' pot an...more
This was an excellent book. It reminded me of Stephen King's "Sometimes They Come Back", without the vengeance. If you want a book that will give you a distinct chill "The Night Country" is a great choice.

*Spoiler Alert*

(Told from the perspectives of three spirits on the anniversary of their death, Stewart O'Nan's "The Night Country" tells a sad tale of three teens who died in a tragic car crash, while their two friends survived- one with severe mental impairment and the other with a serious cas...more
Craig Allen
Really fun read that hooks you from the beginning. This is the story of a car crash on Halloween involving 5 teens. A year later, the 3 that died in the wreck return to the town and drift in and out of various people's lives. Tim, the survivor of the crash, who seemingly has a very sick routine planned, Brooks, the cop whose life has fallen in the year gone by, way too obsessed with the wreck, and Kyle/his mother who's lives have changed drastically since the wreck. Such a great story. Kind of h...more
For October's Reader Advisory meeting, we were to read a horror title to bring and discuss. In this book, 3.5 teenagers come back to visit and haunt the remaining 2.5 survivors of a Halloween night car crash. The ghosts narrate (sometimes with comedic effect) and takes place entirely during Halloween day, one year after the crash. This book is very atmospheric and falls pretty solidly into the ghost subgenre of horror books. I liked the writing style, the characters and setting of this book, but...more
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Stewart O'Nan is the author of eleven novels, including Snow Angels and A Prayer for the Dying, a story collection, and two works of nonfiction. His previous novel, Last Night at the Lobster, was a national bestseller, was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was named one of the New York Public Library Books to Remember. Additionally, Granta named him one of the 20 Best Young Ameri...more
More about Stewart O'Nan...
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“Come then, come with us, out into the night. Come now, America the lovesick, America the timid, the blessed, the educated, come stalk the dark backroads and stand outside the bright houses, calm as murderers in the yard, quiet as deer. Come, you slumberers, you lumps, arise from your legion of sleep and fly. Come, all you dreamers, all you zombies, all you monsters. What are you doing anyway, paying the bills, washing the dishes, waiting for the doorbell? Come on, take your keys, leave the bowl of candy on the porch, put on the suffocating mask of someone else and breathe. Be someone you don't love so much, for once. Listen: like the children, we only have one night.” 7 likes
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