Shelleyrae at Book'd Out's Reviews > Night Road

Night Road by Kristin Hannah
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Mar 24, 11

bookshelves: blog-reviews
Read from March 23 to 24, 2011 — I own a copy

A compelling novel of friendship, love, loss and redemption, Night Road explores the heartbreaking consequences of a single foolish decision that has tragic consequences. Jude Farraday adores her twins, Zach and Mia, she nurtures them from childhood to young adolescence with almost single-minded intensity, A self-described helicopter mom, Jude believes she has the ability to keep her children safe, assuring their bright futures and happiness.
Mia struggles with her self-esteem until she meets Lexi Baill, the two girls forming an unbreakable bond of friendship despite their disparate backgrounds. Lexi has been alone much of her life, the daughter of a drug addicted mother she finally has home with her Aunt Eva, and her relationship with Mia gives her a family. Confident and popular, Zach is protective of his awkward twin, and when he and Lexi recognise their feelings for one another it is Mia's blessing they need to allow their relationship to bloom. As graduation approaches the three are both celebrating and grieving the changes that will come,the twins will head to USC but Lexi can't afford to follow. As the three struggle with the choices that they must make, Mia and Zach chafe against their mother's micro-management of their lives. Their uncertainty leads to a night where one decision changes the future for all of them.
Hannah firmly establishes her characters in the first half of the novel, much of it is from Jude's perspective, a loving and involved mother whose intent is to provide her children a secure foundation with her surgeon husband, Miles. Her anxiety stems from the poor parenting she received as a child but her good intentions are at risk of overwhelming her children. Hannah explores the relationship between the Farradays, building an image of their traditional and mostly happy family. Mia and Zach are privileged but grounded children, a testament to their upbringing. Lexi has never experienced the casual warmth and security of a family, her drug addicted mother had her in and out of foster placements, only to finally overdose. Just barely in her teens Lexi moves to live with her Aunt Eva. Despite her difficult background, Lexi has always hoped for more and in this small town she finds it, a sense of family with her aunt and a sense of belonging with the Farradays. Lexi and Mia's friendship allows Mia to blossom and its lovely to be part of that relationship, a nostalgic reminder of the closeness of childhood friends. The development of Lexi and Zach's relationship is inevitable but Hannah handles it with sweet sensitivity, the passion of all-consuming first love.
While this steady build of the story ensures a connection to the characters, it did seem a little long to me, taking almost half of the book. It's obvious a tragedy will befall one of them, though I was never quite sure who until it happened, and at some point I was thinking 'move it along already'.
The event itself is shattering, both my mother and father lost a teenage sibling in (separate) similar circumstances and as such it's something I have familiarity with as the repercussions ripple through the family, even through generations. The anguish Jude suffers is visceral and I empathised with her pain and grief. As mother of four I cannot imagine losing a child and while I would hope I would not disappear in the fog of loss, I can certainly understand.
My sympathy also lies with Lexi, a bad decision made with good intentions, her willingness to take responsibility for the consequences is naive but I agree that is was the right thing to do, even if the result seemed unfair. Personally, it only reinforces my belief that there should be no 'legal limit', if you drink you can't drive - ZERO tolerance. Age an experience has nothing to do with it.
Hannah examines the different reactions of the surviving characters with depth and tenderness. There are moments of raw and powerful emotion that can be difficult to absorb, but at times it can teeter on the edge of being too dramatic. It's a delicate balance but one I think Hannah is largely successful at. What I do think was missing was Zach's feelings, his struggle to cope and come to terms with everything. The lack of his perspective left a hole in the story.
For me, the time spent examining the aftermath is a little too compressed. Jude's grief becomes repetitive in terms of the story and as it leads into the conclusion her recovery seems a little too convenient. Lexi's reunion with her past felt superficial and rushed. I was thrilled by the happy ending but it's speed and ease pushes the boundary of realism that Hannah had so firmly established.
Hannah's observations of universal themes is sure to engage her reading audience. Night Road is a sensitively written novel with undeniable emotional impact. This is a story that will resonate for mature teens and their parents.
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