Brian's Reviews > The Night Strangers

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian
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's review
Aug 09, 12

bookshelves: first-reads-wins
Read from May 26 to August 09, 2012 — I own a copy, read count: 1

Note: I received this book as a giveaway from the Goodreads First Reads program.

Well, this book was not quite what I expected. From the back of the book, I thought this was going to be a variation on the popular "haunted house terrorizes its residents" trope that I typically enjoy. But instead, this novel focused more on the inner (and, in a supernatural sense, the outer) demons that haunt us from traumas we experience and another trope, namely "the neighbors are not who you think they are." I enjoyed Bohjalian's descriptions (though they got lengthy at times...I'm not the type to particularly care about the color of the tights a woman is wearing) and I thought the characters were good, although at times a bit unbelievable. The major strength here was probably the exploration of the characters of Chip and Emily; one attempting to rebuild his life despite a significant horrific event and another trying to support the other while becoming more and more disconcerted by the other's behavior. The writing is top notch as well; while slow going at first, I found myself fairly entranced as the book went on by the way that Bohjalian twisted his plot with his prose and by the general creepiness of the atmosphere he had created.

But the book has two plot lines that don't quite converge successfully, and as I said before the characters' actions were at times incredible. Without getting into spoiler territory, I felt like the parents in particular did not act very parent-like for much of the novel. And then there was the ending. I note from the reviews here that a lot of digital ink has been spilled over the way Bohjalian decided to finish things, and I don't know if I have much to add beyond the fact that I did not like it.

Overall, I rate this four stars because of the fairly decent scares, the good character development in some respects and the creation of a good atmosphere with sufficient detail to make me feel like I was there. But Bohjalian I think should have selected one of the two plot lines to focus on, he could have created A LOT more depth for several of the characters, and he needed to make the ending less gut punching. A satisfying read, but not one I'm likely to revisit.

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