Nora Brown teaches high school English and lives a quiet life in Seattle with her husband and six-year-old daughter. But one November day, moments after dismissing her class, a girl's face appears above the students' desks -- 'a wild numinous face with startling blue eyes, a face floating on top of shapeless drapes of purples and blues where arms and legs should have been. Terror rushes through Nora's body -- the kind of raw terror you feel when there's no way out, when every cell in your body, your entire body, is on fire -- when you think you might die.
Twenty-four hours later, while on Thanksgiving vacation, the face appears again. Shaken and unsteady, Nora meets with neurologists and eventually, a psychiatrist. As the story progresses, a terrible secret is discovered -- a secret that pushes Nora toward an even deeper psychological breakdown.
This breathtaking debut novel examines the impact of traumatic childhood experiences and the fragile line between past and present. Exquisitely nuanced and profoundly intimate, The Night Child is a story of resilience, hope, and the capacity of the mind, body, and spirit to save itself despite all odds.
Anna Quinn is the author of ANGELINE, (Blackstone Publishing, 2023), and THE NIGHT CHILD, (Blackstone, 2018). Her writing has appeared in Psychology Today, Medium, Writers’ Digest, Washington 129 Anthology, Alone Together Anthology and more. Anna is the founder and former owner of The Writers’ Workshoppe and Imprint Bookstore in Port Townsend, WA.
Order ANGELINE and THE NIGHT CHILD anywhere you love to buy your books.
Right off I knew this was going to be an emotional read. We are told in the description that “a terrible secret is discovered -- a secret that pushes Nora toward an even deeper psychological breakdown.”
Nora has noticed that she’s not as happy with teaching as she used to be. It used to energize her and she felt lucky to be able to do what she did. However, now the large class sizes and government requirements have left her feeling worn-out. After class one day she suddenly feels a headache coming on but then feels like someone is whispering or breathing near her and suddenly….
“In front of her, a girl’s face, a wild numinous face with startling blue eyes, a face floating on top of shapeless drapes of purples and blues where arms and legs should have been"
When Nora locks eyes with the girl she feels a terror rush through her like she’s never felt before. But as quick as the face appeared it disappears. She tells herself she’s just tired, that it must be her imagination, that it must have been a hallucination. The next day she goes on vacation with her husband and six-year-old daughter, Fiona. She’s convinced herself that what happened was brought on by exhaustion. But then it happens again, and this time she doesn’t just see the girl’s face…she hears her voice.
“Remember the Valentine’s dress”
She feels like she’s going crazy….
Sometimes memories start to resurface when we least expect it and in ways we never would have anticipated.
“It’s the secrets that make us sick; it’s the telling that heals”
I was pulled in to the story, invested in the characters and anxious to know how things would turn out. However, this book was even more emotional than I expected. It deals with many very important issues but readers should be aware that the subject matter may be triggering for some. It's quite descriptive and I did find some parts very difficult to read.
Although I wouldn’t classify this as a suspense novel, it’s definitely an interesting psychological read about the strength and resilience of the human mind.
Thank you to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
Nora Brown is a married High School English teacher with a six year old daughter. One day after class she sees a young girl's luminous face floating above a desk. She is alarmed and scared as most people would be. Questions go through her mind: Is she crazy? Is this from stress? Is this even real? She attempts to continue with her life and then, while away with her husband and daughter, she sees the face again but this time the girl tells her to "Remember the Valentine's Dress". Now she is really alarmed and decides to see medial advice and and eventually meets with a therapist/psychiatrist.
As the story unfolds, it is obvious that Nora is an unhappy woman. Her husband is distant and working long hours. She suspects he is lying but is reluctant to question him directly concerning his true whereabouts. She is worried about a student in her class and her therapy sessions are bringing up a lot of issues for her.
This is a quiet book with BIG issues at play. This book touches on infidelity, secrets, sexual molestation, death, mental illness and suicide. This book will not be for everyone as it touches on some really heavy issues. Having said that, I really enjoyed this book. It is a view into one woman's inner turmoil and downward spiral that occurs when her past no longer wants to remain buried. Having to face her traumatic childhood, while watching her marriage fall apart, pushes this woman over the edge.
This is a short novel which packs a punch. I enjoyed the characters of Nora, David and Margaret. This book is really character driven - more so a character study of one woman's' life as everything unravels at once. This is a well written dark book. It was definitely hard to put down. I put this on my currently reading list the end of July but I actually read the entire book today in one sitting. I had to keep reading to learn how this story would unfold.
I received an ARC of this book from Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Thank you to Blackstone Publishing and Netgalley for the chance to read and review this novel.
Just look at this cover! I’ll admit, I was totally judging this book by its gorgeous cover, hoping the story inside would be as exciting as it sounded from the blurb. I was not disappointed in the least. The Night Child has everything I look for in books – twisty, deeply emotional, and boasting a strong storyline.
Though this is Anna Quinn’s debut novel, she is no novice. Come to find out she is the owner The Writers’ Workshoppe and Imprint Bookstore in Port Townsend, Washington. This explains her sharp writing, emotional storytelling, and well-paced plotting.
The Night Child begins in the classroom of Nora Brown, a high school English teacher in Seattle. Unexpectedly, Nora sees a young girl’s face, with bright blue eyes floating toward her after class. Deeply shaken and haunted, she tries to write off the incident as a side effect of stress. However, hours later, while on vacation with her family for Thanksgiving, Nora sees the face again. She can no longer deny the importance of these moments and decides to meet with doctors and a psychiatrist to delve into why this could be happening. Nora never expects to unearth decades worth of memories in the process.
My first thought upon reading the synopsis of this story was that it would be a terrifying read. In some ways, it was, but not in the ways most might expect. It is not what I would consider paranormal, though readers may get that impression from the blurb. Rather, this is a deeply moving story about the lengths human minds can go to protect themselves from trauma. This was an emotional tale that sucks readers in from beginning to end. I picked this book up in the morning, hoping to read a few chapters, and ended up reading much of the day, finishing the entire novel in less than 12 hours time.
The writing was emotional, dark, and exciting. I was reminded of my favorite author, Tarryn Fisher‘s writing as I read, who ironically happens to be a Seattle resident with one of her own books set in Port Townsend, Washington. I’m not sure if the two authors are connected in any way, but I loved the similarities I found between the two. I think readers of Tarryn’s work would be drawn to this novel and find it appealing to their tastes.
With this story, readers are taken back to childhood through an unexpected avenue. I was impressed with the author’s ability to convey the voice of a child with the accuracy she managed. As a mother, some of these parts were difficult to read but were vital to the message of the story. I was drawn the psychological theme of The Night Child, the ties between past and present, and the Washington setting. Overall, this book was so much more than I expected. It was emotional, heartbreaking, and interesting. I highly recommend this to readers are keen to learn about the mind’s inner workings. Many thanks to Anna Quinn for starting my year with a great 5-star read.
NOTE: Sensitive readers may want to explore further reviews for trigger warnings, if needed. ----------- Wow. This story was beautiful and heartbreaking. I couldn’t put it down.
A sense of quiet dread pervades this delicately-structured narrative, like a fierce current running underneath a dark, thin layer of ice. In her powerful debut, Anna Quinn crafts a startling story of Nora, a middle-aged woman waking to truth of her own life.
The awakening begins with Nora's vision of a young girl with piercing blue eyes. Her very innocence is a clarion bell of terror for Nora, a high school teacher and mother to six-year-old Fiona. Who is this child and why has she come? What is the warning writ so shockingly clear in her eyes? The journey launched by this vision takes Nora down the dark road of a forgotten past. As memories come to light, she risks losing her family and her soul.
The Night Child's lucid prose and intelligent characters carry a breath-stealing story. Quinn writes with a grace born of empathy. Her novel will sink in deeply and remain with you long after you have turned the final page.
I really enjoyed reading this very accomplished debut novel exploring the mind of a middle-aged woman who has been secrets from herself about trauma experienced in childhood. The main character, Nora Brown is a high school English teacher in Seattle, married to a successful businessman and mother to a six year old daughter. Her path to mental breakdown starts at the end of a tiring day in the classroom, with a vision of a young girl floating in the air. After a second vision of the same child, and as her life starts to fall to pieces, Nora starts consulting a psychologist who helps her uncover the trauma she has been keeping locked away in her mind. I thought this was a fascinating account of a woman struggling with her inner demons and an interesting depiction of how the mind can work to shield and protect itself from unpleasant and harmful truths. It's an emotional journey for both Nora and the reader (and may be disturbing for those who have suffered similar issues). Of the other main characters, Nora's husband is cold and not at all supportive but her psychologist is a warm and gentle man who carefully accompanies her a step at a time through her memories. I loved the ending of the novel as Nora finally finds her inner strength and there is hope and light ahead for her.
With thanks to Netgalley, the author and Blackstone Publishing for a copy of the book to read and review
A fractured mind. Old scars. Emotional trauma. This book's synopsis pretty much gives the entire story away, but this book was nicely written and flowed easily. Some of the content was difficult to read about but this author made those scenes seem plausible and believable without eroticizing or glorifying it. None of the characters (including the narrator) were particularly likable but this story firmly held my attention.
▣ Overall, this was a very sad, tragic, and disturbing story. Kudos to the author for writing so eloquently about the themes broached in this book. The ending threw me for a loop because it felt unfinished and yet hinted at new possibilities--an alternate reality Nora would ultimately embrace. I wasn't certain how to interpret it exactly, but definitely looking forward to reading more from this author.
*NetGalley ARC provided by Blackstone Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
This debut novel grabbed my attention and didn't let go. Nora Brown, wife, mother of a six year old girl, and high school English teacher and Department head, is disturbed one day, sitting in her classroom after the students have gone, by the appearance of a young girl's face in the air before her. Two days later, a similar event occurs, but there is also a child's voice.
Needless to say, Nora is worried, has various medical and neurological exams and ultimately is advised to see a psychiatrist. It is there that tension continues to increase and the story continues to spool out. There are also issues in her marriage driving Nora and her husband apart. So many sources of tension.
This is a very effective psychological novel that I do recommend. We see Nora's therapeutic process in up close, interesting ways that feel very real. It brings us into this woman's worst nightmares as we live her struggle with her present and her past, all she has known. It's a gripping read.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Thank you to Anna Quinn (the author), Blackstone Publishing, and NetGalley for the advanced reader copy of The Night Child. I was given a copy of this book in return for an honest review. I would have given this book 10 stars if I could. What an incredible debut novel. I read this book in a day and a half I couldn't put it down and ended up turning my phone off so I could read interruption free. The writing is excellent, I have read books that deal with child abuse, but this book was exceptional at describing the damage that child abuse can do to the young psyche.
Nora Brown is a high school English teacher. A floating face appears in her classroom one afternoon and then again at home the following day. Frightened and unable to tell her husband or coworker, in fear that they may think she is crazy, she meets with neurologists to see if there is something physically wrong with her and when all test results come back normal, she then starts to therapy with David, a psychologist to try understand and work out why she is hallucinating. Her sessions with the David help her to uncover a deep, dark secret which she has managed to repress.
The abuse that happened to Nora many years ago was so damaging to her spirit, that her subconscious suppress it for all these years. This book deals with child abuse, physically, emotionally, and sexual. This book did a compelling job of how deeply childhood abuse can scar a person, no matter how strong they are. I really enjoyed the characters in this book, especially Nora’s brother, James, Margret, and Fiona. Anna Quinn did a wonderful job in portraying the hurt felt by all the characters and emphasizing the consequences of this hurt in a very realistic manner.
I thought that the story was powerful and quite heartbreaking. I can't stop thinking about it. I cannot wait to read more from Anna Quinn. Thank you again to Anna Quinn and NetGalley.
THE NIGHT CHILD is a masterfully written journey into the dark recesses of an abused woman's mind. It is a page turner...until it isn't due to the need to take a break from the intensity of the storyline. The literary writing is lyrical and beautiful, in sharp contrast to the awful and ugly story, which is no easy feat. Quinn writes with such aplomb; she delicately expounds on this sensitive subject as she exposes the protagonist's heart, mind, and soul. The characters are rich, multi dimensional and I felt honored to read their story. This is a difficult read, but a very important and powerful one. The denouement is especially masterful, as the author does not leave the reader in despair, but instead, foreshadows the turning of the darkness into light. Highly recommended. Richly deserved 5 stars.
I want to thank Anna Quinn, the publisher, and NetGalley for the honor and opportunity to read and review THE NIGHT CHILD.
Nora has just finished teaching a high school English class when a face with startling blue eyes appears above the desks. She’s not sure if she’s losing her mind or has seen a ghost. In a sense both possibilities are true and as the story continues readers begin to understand why. William Faulkner said, “The past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past” and that statement definitely applies to Quinn’s debut novel. It’s not an easy book because of the subject matter—sexual abuse, mental illness, alcoholism, suicide—and it’s not for everyone. I’m grateful to Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
The Night Child portrays Nora with sensitivity and gave me a real sense of her interior struggles. The writing itself is good and the pacing is fairly quick. However, I would have liked to get a better understanding of some of the other characters. There seemed to be a contrast between the flashbacks—which were quite vivid—and the 1990s events. This may have been intentional on the part of the author and was effective in conveying the devastating effect the past had on her life. I still would have liked to know more about Nora's husband, her principal, her daughter and a particular student. Toward the end there were a few scenes that did develop the characters in greater depth, especially her husband, but I would have liked more of that earlier on. That said, I’m glad I had the chance to read this disturbing yet honest book
Thank you to Anna Quinn (the author), Blackstone Publishing, and NetGalley for the advanced reader copy of The Night Child. I rated a solid 4 stars.
First off, this book needs a trigger warning. It contains sexual violence and child abuse, including fairly graphic descriptions of both. If this is not your type of book, make sure to pass on it given its content.
When I read the premise of the book, I thought it sounded unique (and I had no idea it involved sexual violence/child abuse from the description, which reveals part of the plot I suppose). I decided to try it out because of the unusual description - a high school English teacher named Nora starts suffering from debilitating headaches and seeing the face of a disembodied child. She thinks she's losing it, or suffering from a severe medical issue. Her home life is likewise falling apart; her spouse is disengaged and impatient with her, and doesn't seem to really care at all about her health issues. The most important people in Nora's life are the students she teaches, and her young daughter Fiona, who she adores.
Scared of what is going on in her head (literally and metaphorically), Nora seeks out a psychiatrist. Her sessions slowly reveal her tragic childhood, one that is coming back to haunt her in the present. Secrets are revealed, and the mystery of Nora's mental and physical health is unraveled as the plot unfolds.
I read this book in a day and a half during a really busy couple of days. The writing is excellent, and while the subject matter isn't something I would usually read (especially a story dealing with child abuse), I was able to tolerate the subject matter because the story was compelling and seemed real. I identified with the characters and wanted to know how the story resolves.
To summarize: a quick but terrifying read through a damaged human psyche.
THE NIGHT CHILD is a penetrating and, at times, disturbing novel. The main character, Nora is a high school English teacher, married and the mother of a 6 year old daughter. The novel begins slowly and builds in complexity when one day Nora sees an apparition of a young girl through a window. As the novel progresses, we accompany Nora through painful childhood flashbacks until layers are peeled away to reveal the source of her hallucinations.
This is a well-written book and an intense read…a realistic portrait of the damaging and life-lasting effects of early childhood trauma.
I received a free copy of 'The Night Child' in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Anna Quinn and Blackstone Publishing.
Wow. What an incredible debut novel. I'm going to be thinking about this one for months...
Nora Brown is a teacher. A floating face appears in her classroom one afternoon and then again at home the following day. Filled with terror, she meets with neurologists and then psychologists to try and work out why she is hallucinating. Her sessions with the psychologist help her to uncover a deep, dark secret which she has managed to force herself to forget.
The characters in this book are so well written. I found myself completely able to identify with Nora, despite having absolutely nothing in common with her. I really did find myself on the edge of my seat whilst I was reading - I'm not sure I've really sympathised or cared as much about a character before.
I'll admit that from the blurb given, I wasn't especially excited about this book, but it really has got to me. I was beyond gripped right from the beginning of the story, and completely shocked by the route it actually took. I found myself researching 'split consciousness,' something I was fairly unaware of before. I'll take my hat off to Quinn for writing so well about such a complex topic and tying it in so well to such a gripping story.
An absolute page turner - suspenseful, dark and also quite heartbreaking - as I said before, this one will actually stay with me for a while. I can't stop thinking about it. Well done Anna Quinn - I would LOVE to see more from you!
THE NIGHT CHILD is the story of an incredible journey made by a middle-aged high school teacher. She's not too concerned with the sudden headaches she has developed, but when she sees the floating face of a very young girl she believes she may be losing her mind. It only gets worse when she's feeling fearful about things that she has no reason to.
With a husband who is seeing another woman and her own fear reaction for her 6-year-old daughter, she decides to see a therapist. With his help, she discovers things about herself she never knew and the remarkable ability to overcome those things that take the very breath from your body.
*WARNING* This book contains sexual violence and child abuse, including fairly graphic descriptions of both. Language.
This is a very well-written debut novel. Either the author has personal experience with the subject matter or she's done an excellent job of researching. I can't say I liked the characters, but I'm sure they were written that way. The ending seemed a little off to me. Overall, it was an engaging read. I look forward to seeing more from this author.
Many thanks to the author / Blackstone Publishing / Netgalley for the advanced digital copy. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.
To ESCAPE is to slip away from threatened evil. Anna Quinn does an amazing telling of how Nora Brown uses this method to overcome an abusive childhood. A TRIGGER like in a gun initiates a reaction that in this novel causes suppressed memories to sift to the surface. Intense telling of a teacher who seeks therapy after a vision of a child appears. Story started a bit slow but eventually resulted in prose that caused tears and physical discomfort to finish. With so many psychological works available to read this one is made special by the authors talent in the telling. Would have liked an ending different than was written to leave Nora's future clearer. "A copy of this book was provided by Blackstone Publishing via NetGalley with no requirements for a review. Comments here are my honest opinion."
As Anna’s husband, I know I’m biased but I’ve also watched her craft this marvelous story, read the different versions, experienced this book in ways I think are important and universal. There is a risk that readers will assume The Night Child will appeal primarily to women. I believe there is an urgent need for men to read it.
I encourage men especially, to read The Night Child and gain an emotional understanding of these difficult issues. Intellectual understanding is not enough. Although it will impact women similarly, it seems that women have a deeper understanding of the dangerous potential power of one person over another.
The Night Child is written in the third person limited voice. The entire book is told from Nora Brown’s perspective. In using this POV, there is an intimacy, a deep, deep clarity about what Nora is going through – what she went through. Dissociation and sexual abuse are real for both men and women. The personal intensity of this POV brings emotional understanding to the experience for those of us who have not endured it. This is The Night Child's powerful gift and especially important to those who are called upon to first, believe someone when they are brave enough to talk about it and, then to support them as they deal with the reality of denial and recrimination they endure in living their truth.
It’s a virtual certainty we will all be called upon at some point in our lives to believe and support someone we care about as they face the issues this book deals with and attempt to heal. The Night Child will provide important and valuable understanding of their journey and better prepare you to be a good brother, husband, father, uncle, friend to them.
The Night Child is an unforgettable read, one of those books to keep and return to again and again. Quinn writes lovely, lucid prose, and though the subject is a dark one--riveting, in truth, and heart-rending--the novel manages to leave the reader full of hope. I love the character of Nora, and of Margaret, too--in fact, all the characters come alive in this short novel. I don't often read a book straight through in a day, but this one I couldn't put down. Highly recommended.
Anna Quinn's first novel is a wondrous journey into the heart of survival, and our power to save our own lives. Quinn plumbs the mysteries of dissociation with lyrical courage, examining the tender line between our past and present. This is a remarkable book, full of healing and redemption.
Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free electronic ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. “The Night Child” by Anna Quinn begins with Nora, a high school English teacher living in Seattle with her husband and six year old daughter, Fiona. During class one day, Nora begins to see the image of a young child’s face hovering in the back of her classroom, chilling Nora to her core. The face continues to haunt her dreams and her waking life, and when it begins to speak to her, Nora finally seeks out professional help. With the help of a therapist, Nora uncovers some deep secrets from her past that she has been hiding from for years. As Nora begins to examine these feelings and experiences, she begins to realize that she must face her demons or suffer the consequences. This novel was not what I expected. I’m not sure if I was anticipating a paranormal novel, or maybe a suspense/mystery novel, but “The Night Child” was none of those things. Provocative and uncomfortable, “The Night Child” deals with dissociative identity disorder, suicidal thoughts and actions, and incest and abuse. It is definitely a disturbing novel that is not for a reader looking for a light-hearted escape. Nora is a complex character, but she is one that is relatable and honest, and a bond develops quickly between her and the reader. As the plot went on, I ran through many possible options of where the book could go (I pondered many things from David’s influence on Nora, to Nora’s husbands’ behaviour and its impact, to a “Catcher in the Rye” type plot line) and I struck out on all three. This novel is not hiding anything, there are no surprises or twists and turns. It is exactly what it is. David is just a therapist, Nora is a troubled woman dealing with many demons, and Nora’s husband is (albeit kind of a jackass), simply a man struggling to keep his family together. This novel was a good read, overall. The plot line was relatively developed and the characters (as few as there were) were not particularly irritating or brash. It is definitely an intense novel that cannot be taken lightly, and will have an impact on a lot of readers. The psychological part of it held my interest (Again, psychology degree over here) and it was certainly unlike anything I have ever read before. The ending was unexpected and not defined (one of those “did this happen? Or maybe this…?” kind of endings) but still, I trudged on through as I was definitely interested in the outcome of Nora and Margaret. It is a novel worth investigating for anyone with an interest in psychology or mental illness (specifically dissociative identity disorder).
Wow wow wow!!!! My favourite read so far this year. Firstly, thanks for the advanced copy. What a surprise this book was. It took me down a road I was not expecting!
I don't like putting spoilers in my reviews but in order for me to indicate why I loved this book so much, I will probably have a spoiler or two in here. Being a person who has experienced a dysfunctional and abusive childhood, I appreciate the accuracy in which Quinn has woven a story around this subject matter in a very relatable sense. Although I have experienced abuse, I don't know if I could have done such a good job in describing the way in which abusers weave a believable explanation for their despicable behaviour and the shame attached to abuse.
Nora is a teacher that loves her job and has a compassion for students that seem to struggle. Her love of her job and her nuclear family is what brings her the most joy and what she lives for. However, out of the blue, things start to unravel. Her happy existence starts to slip and Nora can't understand what is happening.
I believe that this book most likely depicts what very commonly is happening nowadays. When past secrets come to the surface or are triggered, if these demons have not been addressed or worked through, at some point, I believe we have our time of reckoning. This novel gives an account of exactly this. Confronting, disturbing, raw and believable.
This book I believe will give an insight to those that have not encountered abuse, what it is like to be a survivor. The character development in this novel is breathtaking and so believable. I just wish I knew what happens in relation to John the Principal!!!
Well done on a gripping page turner from start to finish. Thoroughly recommend!
First, I want to thank the author for choosing me to receive her debut novel, “the Night Child” in the Facebook Readers Coffeehouse giveaway.
Second, I want to thank the author for this book donation to our Little Free Library Shed for our neighborhood.
Let me just say this…
This story is heart-wrenching and powerful in the way that it examines a teacher’s mental breakdown.
Premise: Nora Brown sees an apparition that appears to her in a valentine dress. It rattles her, and so she begins seeing a therapist. There, she discovers that this apparition closely relates to a childhood trauma. Nora struggles to understand what happened to her before losing her family.
Before we go any further…
Trigger warning. Nora’s discovery revolves around child abuse and sexual violence. Described in vivid detail.
Even as I share this, I do want to say that the author does this both sensitively and with great care and thoughtfulness in telling the story. In sharing Nora’s story she is highlighting her fragile condition, rather than using her descriptions as an attention grabber.
The story although difficult and emotionally challenging to read, showcases the fragility of the human wounds caused by such childhood traumas.
It felt like the ending left the story unfinished. Is there a sequel planned? If so, I’m not sure I could read it, even though I wanted and needed closure.
The book is a compelling, dark, haunting read with well-developed characters. Well-worth reading.
Nora Brown, an English teacher, is happily married to Paul and they have a six-year-old daughter, Fiona. Nora leads a perfect life, you would say, until she is suddenly confronted by an image of a beautiful young girl with “startling blue eyes” … and fate, at last, confronts her with her past.
| Introduction |
It is almost time for their little family’s annual Thanksgiving holiday on the Washington Coast when Nora Brown, sitting in her now empty class room, experiences something frightening: a whisper of the wind and a girl’s face floats before her eyes, a bodiless face with “startling blue eyes” staring straight into Nora’s. A hallucination? A product of Nora’s own imagination? There is a terror in Nora, never before experienced and she desperately tries to hang on, to return to her normal self, but the girl does not give up and starts reappearing.
| Storyline |
Nora is shocked by the terror and agony she feels after seeing the girl and the next time she appears, the girl speaks to her: “Remember the Valentine’s dress“, she says. when she tells her husband about the girl, Paul does not say much but Nora can see, he finds it .. creepy. As Nora finds it harder to get a grip on her daily life and feels more and more sleep deprived, she decides to confront the situation with Psychiatrist, David Forrester. With him, she goes back to her childhood, to her mother’s fatal accident that caused her father to leave. Her parents married young, her mother was only sixteen and had the year before left home in Ireland to emigrate to America. From a happy person, she turned into an alcoholic which made life for her children, James and Nora, difficult.
With David, Nora sets out on a journey filled with memories from the past. No one to turn to or to confide in, not even Nora’s teacher, Sister Rosa, who told her to be brave like St Margaret. We have no idea what has happened, what causes present day Nora to have nightmares, and is slowly depriving her of her normal life with Paul and their little daughter. David is certain, something has triggered the image of the little girl. He tries to establish whether she was happy before having the headaches and hallucinations and this seemingly simple question throws Nora off balance. With every insight Nora gives us, we form a picture of her youth and the girl she once was. And gradually, we come to understand why Nora is in this situation but we are powerless to lessen her pain. Will David find a way to get through to her and guide her back into her ‘normal’ life?
| My Thoughts |
The Night Child is a gripping psychological novel – a story that captures your heart and does not let go. You have to read on to understand – and then you are with her, questioning everything – foremost, her sanity. She has lived through something no child should experience, and to witness the cruelty bestowed upon her, it is hard. People you trust, you should be able to trust unconditionally, when they let you down it is the utmost betrayal. This novel takes you on an emotional journey into the darkness and evil – but also, shows how we carry with us what happened in the past, how we all have our coping mechanisms that keep us from losing track. Still, something can trigger memories long hidden – and it is how you deal with it that counts. I admired Nora, she is very brave when she desperately tries to confront her past. This psychological novel stays with you long after you have closed the book.
*Somewhere on the spectrum between 3 and 4 stars. Another book that is hard to rate because it hits hard where it hurts--in your heart. This book should come with a warning label that states it deals with disturbing topics in a frank and graphic manner. I was not aware of the uncomfortable subject matter when I requested an arc from NetGalley and began reading. Even the publisher's synopsis does not really reveal what lies in store. So be forewarned....
Having said all that, I think Anna Quinn should be praised for her fine writing in this her debut novel. She tackles an important topic that is all too frequently in the headlines or worse, covered up: the sexual abuse of a child and the lifelong damage that can inflict.
The main character is Nora Brown, a high-school English teacher living in Seattle with her husband and 6-year-old daughter. She is preparing to leave school for the Thanksgiving break when she has an hallucination that shakes her to the core: she sees the disembodied face of a little blue-eyed girl. Later, while dressing to go out for dinner with her family, the hallucination is repeated, but this time the apparition speaks to her: "Remember the Valentine's dress." What in the world is going on?
Fearing she's having a nervous breakdown, Nora undergoes a series of neurological tests that show nothing physically wrong with her so it is suggested she see a psychiatrist, Dr. David Forrester. In these sessions, Nora reveals details about her childhood--how her mother fell to her death on the basement stairs, after which she and her younger brother were sent to live with grandparents in Ireland, and never saw their father again.
After several sessions, there is a shocking breakthrough and David begins to think she is suffering from some form of PTSD. But what was the traumatic episode that caused the damage?
As she makes some progress in her sessions, matters in her personal life seem to be devolving: her once neat home is a mess; she thinks her husband is being unfaithful; an angry snit frightens her little daughter; she punches out a parent at school. Would everyone be better off without her?
The mental health procedures are interesting--I don't know how realistic they are or how quickly a patient like this would progress. Some have suggested that this story is somewhat autobiographical but the author does not reveal that in her acknowledgments--just that it took a decade-long effort to write the story. I would be interested in reading more from this talented author and look forward to more opportunities.
THE NIGHT CHILD is the dark and moving debut novel from Anna Quinn. I feel like I should include a trigger warning, but on the other hand, a trigger warning gives you a heads up as to what is going to happen and I think it's best to let the author tell the story as she intended. Just be aware that there are very disturbing elements within.
I'm not going to run down the entire plot for you, but it begins with Nora, a high school English teacher, seeing an hallucination of a face with startling blue eyes. Here begins Nora's decline. Whose face is it and what does it mean? You'll have to read this to find out!
Being a seasoned reader of dark fiction, I pretty much knew where this story was going as soon as I began reading. Anna Quinn does a good job at depicting all the different psychological aspects of this situation, including the reactions of other family members and coworkers. My only problem was this: I didn't care for any of the characters. I felt pity for Nora and for her immediate family, but maybe that's what the author intended? Perhaps Nora's coldness was yet another symptom of her underlying issues and partially the result of her husband being such a jerk?
That said, this was a touching and disturbing story dealing with heartbreaking situations and I believe that it deals with mental illness, (or coming to terms with difficult, horrendous circumstances) in a stark, but believable way. For that reason, I recommend this book to those who think they can handle the worst of humanity.
*Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*
Anna Quinn is a brave writer. This wrenching debut novel occupies a place in literature that has lain dormant for decades; kudos to Quinn for bringing dark business out into the light of day for a good airing. I received my review copy free and early thanks to Net Galley and Blackstone Publishers. It will be available to the public January 30, 2018.
Nora is a high school teacher and the mother of a small child; her marriage is coming undone. Her mental health is a little on the shaky side, and she’s seeing a therapist to help her understand a terrifying vision that came to her in her classroom. A “wild numinous” face, the disembodied face of a child, floats over her students’ desks one day after school, and Nora panics. This face represents the core of Nora’s story, and once the layers of her outer self are peeled away, it makes for a deeply absorbing read.
Quinn takes some time to lay her groundwork. The first part of the story is unremarkable, and I briefly considered abandoning it. Character development seems limited to marital issues and time spent in therapy, and Nora lacks depth and originality until about the thirty percent mark. I tell you this lest you abandon the story yourself. It’s worth the wait, because once the story takes wing, it is hypnotic.
It’s tempting to say this novel is the twenty-first century’s answer to Sybil, but that doesn’t do it justice. Nora’s struggle to find the self that is held beneath layers and layers of emotional scar tissue, to heal herself so that she can be a good mother to Fiona, is one that we carry with us long after the book is over. Those that face serious mental health issues themselves will see vindication. Those that have family members or other loved ones working to unify a personality fragmented by trauma may see themselves as Paul, who’s juggling his own needs, those of his daughter, his love for Nora, and the crushing burnout that comes of living with a partner facing all-absorbing mental illness over a lengthy period of time.
Recommended to those interested in reading about mental health issues through the approachable medium of literary fiction.
In his book Slow Reading in a Hurried Age, author David Mikics says, "A good book dawns on us, and within us, with gradual sweetness and strength." This describes my experience with Anna Quinn's powerful debut novel, The Night Child. Set in Chicago, Seattle and Ireland, its characters are superbly drawn and scenes are startlingly vivid, but as the suspense ratcheted up, I could no longer read slowly. In fact, I could not sleep and had to finish it all in one go. Even afterward, I could not stop playing it in my head like a movie.
In spare, subtle language, Quinn jumps around in time, dropping multilayered clues along the reader’s path in the form of flashbacks and unbidden images appearing frighteningly in the mind of Nora, a married mother of a six year-old daughter. I found myself not just in the same room with Nora, but inside her head as her world disintegrates. Nothing is overdone in this book, not a word is wasted, but while the flow of emotion runs wild, it is written with a rare and stunning precision. And there are moments of dry humor that made me smile. Quinn's ability to get inside characters’ heads reminds me of what Sylvia Plath accomplished in The Bell Jar, or what George Saunders does in his short stories, especially "Victory Lap."
As an example of Quinn’s cinematic scenes: Nora's drunken mother, gin glass in hand, falls down the stairs to where Nora has fled. “…a green olive—the green olive alive, moving fast and wild, announcing the falling body, bouncing and coming to a halt next to the black part of Nora’s left shoe.” The olive is sly counterpoint to the great sudden crash, the gin glass breaking, the body thumps; we see and hear that wet olive as it hits Nora’s shoe, because everything comes to focus on its quiet rolling; we watch it like dogs. Nora steps over it—she does not have permission, tacit or otherwise, to disturb this symbol of her mother’s drunken dominance, even in death—and calls for help. Later she stares “with bare eyes” at her mother’s casket but strokes her hands, startled to feel the skin as “fragile as Bible paper.” The use of crabapples and a children’s story about them as metaphor for the sour shrunken love from two betraying parents reached into my chest and squeezed until it hurt.
The retreat of a traumatized child into a place of mental away-ness during and after horrific events is riveting and heartbreaking to witness, and some reviewers have suggested trigger warnings due to the subject matter. But this is about healing and resiliency, and under Quinn’s sensitive treatment, the woven tapestry of Nora’s early life storyline and her emotional journey to re-integration of herself makes this book’s message far too important to ignore. Plath’s Bell Jar wedged the door open on de-stigmatizing mental illness; Quinn’s The Night Child blows that door off its hinges.
It’s been nearly a week since I waded, somewhat cautiously, into a review copy of Anna Quinn’s short, powerful, debut novel, The Night Child. The lucid prose swept me up into the tragic life of Nora. The middle chapters, with Margaret, were a complete surprise. Took me back to the 70’s and Sybil. The end left me reeling, hoping to God that part was real. Please! My heart ached for the other “children waiting for us to save them,” Quinn addressed in her dedication.
Plenty of reviewers had warned of explicit content, but I’d read Quinn’s blog and knew how carefully, honestly, and deeply she wields a pen at the topic of childhood sex abuse. Like other works of contemporary fiction I’ve admired, with scenes difficult to read, I knew the excellent writing would make it worth the poignant journey. I knew I would learn something and indeed, I did.
If you are a fan of Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle, Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing, Lydia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water, Dorothy Allison’s Bastard out of Carolina, and Brian Doyle’s Mink River, read this book. Like those authors, Quinn’s writing, about real life for - in this case - way too many children who are hurt - is deeply honest, raw, lyrical, provocative, and courageous.
Hat’s off to Anna Quinn for this daring novel that will, no doubt, save some “children.” With that ending, she left us all a place to save ourselves “into light, into light, into light”.
For some women and men, sexual abuse as a child was/is a common practice. They can be abused by their husbands, boyfriends/girlfriends. family members, and people who are in authority relationships with the person. For Nora Brown, who feels her world is falling apart, can't understand why she is seeing visions of a young blue eyed child. She is a successful high school English teacher who starts to realize she is hallucinating. Thinking herself to be losing her mind, she finally seeks out help through a psychologist. Nora has an unsympathetic husband and a young daughter she adores. As her experience get more bizarre, she seems to be slipping further and further into insanity.
As the story continues we find out more and more of Nora's relationship with family members. She loves her father and seems to idolize him, but her mother is portrayed as physically abusive. Her brother and she share a care and concern for one another, and it is to him that she is finally able to find the love she searches for in a family setting.
Child abuse leaves emotional scars upon people as they grow and mature. Many repress the images, the times a person abused them, and carry it throughout their lives buried in the psyche. They become alcoholics, drug addicts, and oftentimes develop mental illnesses. How one feels about themselves grows directly from how you were treated as a child. For Nora, as these experiences of a mental breakdown continue, the truth of what happened to her comes to the surface through a second personality, a child named Margaret. As Nora is abused, Margaret helped her cope and comes to the surface in counseling sessions,
This was a sad and horrifying story of how sexual abuse of the young taints their lives, and in many cases destroys the life of a young person. Sad to think that this abuse, often hidden, goes on today.
While the author did write a compelling story, her actual writing at times was somewhat annoying with her repeating set phrases over and over. My issue with this novel was certainly not its content but in the way this author put it forward. Child abuse or abuse of any kind needs to be eradicated. The how to do so is the problem for as we have seen recently in the news from Hollywood, it goes on in all its insidious ways.
Thank you to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for an ARC of this book.
Thank you to Anna Quinn and NetGalley for the advanced reader copy of The Night Child. This novel tugged at my heart strings..I read this book in a day and a half I couldn't put it down. I have read many books on the topic of child abuse, but the author of The Night Child did such a wonderful job on describing the damage that it can do to you physically and emotionally.
The Night Child is an emotional journey into the main character Nora Brown's life, the secrets that she has kept not only from herself but the loved ones around her, the state of her mental and well being. This journey was nothing but heartbreaking for me, i felt for every character, even Nora's husband who i was not a fan of.
Nora Brown is a High School English teacher with a six year old daughter named Fiona. One day Nora sees a girl's face floating. She is alarmed and wondering if she has gone crazy. With multiple fears going through her mind she attempts to go on like normal, but while away on a trip with her husband and daughter, she sees the little girl's face again. The girl speaks to her on this occasion about a Valentine dress.Now even more alarmed, fearing she might be having a mental breakdown, she decides to seek medial advice and eventually meets with a psychiatrist. Together they slowly work out that Nora had been abused as a little girl and the girl in her vision is a character Nora has invented in a way with dealing with this tragedy.
Kudos to Anna Quinn on writing this beautifully well written story. A definite page-turner, this books will have you thinking even after you have finished it. Thanks again!
The Night Child is an emotional journey into a recessed memory of a young woman's childhood. Nora is an English teacher who starts to suffer with really bad headaches. She thinks she starting to have visions of a little girl with piercing blue eyes. This of course frightens her and she shares her worries with her husband who fairly instantly dismisses it all out of hand. Nora is a mother and has an eight year old daughter who she is fiercely protective of. Dressing almost in an androgynous manner and keeping her hair short, Nora seems to have lost interest in her husband and vice versa.
Fearing that she might be heading for a psychological breakdown she seeks out professional help and is referred to a psychiatrist, David. Together they slowly work out that Nora had been abused as a little girl and the girl in her vision is a character Nora has created herself. A way for her childhood brain to deal/escape the tragedy that she had to endure. Together with an alcoholic mother who died when Nora was young Nora's memories have become totally fragmented and repressed.
The story is a emotional journey of horrendous abuse with some graphic depictions of said abuse. Not overly graphic but does highlight just what Nora suffered at the hands of her abuser. It's not an easy read but the novel carefully balances out the abuse with the nurture that Nora receives from David.
It's fairly well written and you can see why a little girl would be so ready to mentally shut down a very dark chapter in her young troubled life. Having read a few books regarding child abuse I thought this one was deftly handled by the author with nothing feeling too much or over the top. It's not a book you could say that you enjoy; more one filled with empathy and an understanding of an emotional road to recovery. That though the road might be a long one, with the right help a victim can eventually find some level of balance. Hopefully.