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That Night

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  1,567 ratings  ·  177 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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Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,567 ratings  ·  177 reviews

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Angela M
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing

If it wasn’t for what happened that night, it would have been an ordinary night, on this ordinary street in a New York City suburb in the early 1960’s. It’s about more than just that night when violence came to this street, when a young man comes looking for his teenage girlfriend, obsessed or perhaps just in love, when the husbands and fathers decide to come out of their houses. It’s about what came before it and what will come after that night. The writing is unbelievably clear and descriptive
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a night! The night Rick and his friends came to bay at the moon and brought some chains with them to help.

Although there was some (more than a few specific departures from my own experiences of neighborhood at exactly the same time and with McDermott that has NOT been at all true before on 4 other books)- this one seems fairly spot on for the mix that was Alice's. And Sheryl's and Rick's. And the neighborhood connections and mores. People were far more entwined and they did care for each o
May 02, 2012 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
Apr 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Floreat Suburbia

I lived in this neighbourhood at this point in history. And I never thought the cultural desolation and dislocation that I remember of that time and place could be redeemed. Alice McDermott in That Night and in Charming Billy has given me cause to doubt my existential prejudices. Perhaps the treeless, soulless streets of 1950's NYC suburbs provide material of general worth to ponder. As of now I am amazed at McDermott's ability to simply describe what the time and place were lik
Dan Phillips
Jun 19, 2012 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
Amy B.
Jun 14, 2011 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
Joan Winnek
Dec 19, 2009 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 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
Megan Baxter
Jan 29, 2015 rated it liked it
I think this is now the fourth Alice McDermott book I've read. I question why, since they aren't ones I have loved. Then again, it may be because I first read some of her more recent works, that I quite enjoyed, while what's crossed my reading list lately are her first two books, and I definitely don't like them as much.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can r
Mar 24, 2013 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
Oct 21, 2008 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
Oct 10, 2007 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.
Oct 28, 2009 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.
Heather *Undercover Goth Queen*
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*
David Gallin-Parisi
May 12, 2012 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
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
Sep 14, 2013 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
May 20, 2008 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.
Caroline Cottom
Aug 13, 2014 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.
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book seems a bit like a stereotype that was just written up as opposed to fleshed out, but it has a charm that makes up for that somewhat. I would have like It differentiated from the generic more, but I still enjoyed reading it quite a bit. I have to admit that.
Bonnie Moore
Mar 30, 2015 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.
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
That Night is Alice McDermott's second novel, published in 1987 when she was thirty-four. A finalist for the National Book Award, That Night contains the hallmarks of her six later novels.

A blurb could easily be written about That Night describing an ordinary novel about an ordinary early 1960s situation, set in an ordinary suburb with ordinary characters, and written in ordinary, colloquial American English. No trips to the dictionary to understand McDermott's sentences, no Googling to underst
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
I loved "Charming Billy" but this book was no Charming Billy. I guess you'd describe it as a period piece. Set in suburbia in the 1950's, it tells the story of a high school girl who gets pregnant. Her mother hustles her off to an aunt's house in Ohio and the boyfriend ( a hoodlum, as we used to call them in the 50's) gets insanely mad and goes to the mother's house and assaults her. The neighborhood fathers decide to take action and a fight ensues between the dads and the boyfriend's gang of fe ...more
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
there were/are more pressing matters in the world than an over-sexualized teenage girl - even in the 60s
Elizabeth A.
Aug 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Though this was McDermott's second novel and thus an older work, it still exhibits her talent and powerful ability to recount a period in time. THAT NIGHT refers to an incident involving two teenagers living in a Long Island neighborhood. When Sheryl becomes pregnant, her lover Rick organizes his gang of friends to drive past her house as a warning--he wants her. She should be allowed to leave her home and be with him. But after hours of the slow drive-by, the cars veer onto the neatly landscape ...more
Dec 13, 2015 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
Jun 06, 2016 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
Megan Strang
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
The story of a neighborhood in the 60s, using the actions of one fateful night to delve into the lives of neighbors.

This book had promise - and glimmers of great writing. The themes of teen pregnancy, love, death, and changing neighborhood dynamics, all set against the background of the 1960s, could have been interesting. But I just couldn't dig into the author's writing style. The flashbacks and flash forwards got confusing and the writing was removed and even dull in places. Again, there were
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Jun 02, 2010 rated it liked it
This book appears on Anita Shreve's Top Ten list and I chose to read it for one of the tasks of the Summer Challenge. The central character of the story is a teenaged girl, whose father died suddenly. She has trouble coping with this loss and seeks solace in the arms of a boyfriend. Interestingly, the narrator of the story is a 10-year old neighbor who is placed in the role of observer, not just of teenaged Sheryl, but of the adults in the neighborhood too. A high 3 stars, but can't compete with ...more
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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

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