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Monday, March 21, 2011

Night Road by Kristin Hannah

Night Road by Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (385 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

For eighteen years, Jude Farraday has put her children’s needs above her own, and it shows — her twins, Mia and Zach, are bright and happy teenagers. When Lexi Baill moves into their small, close-knit community, no one is more welcoming than Jude. Lexi, a former foster child with a dark past, quickly becomes Mia’s best friend. Then Zach falls in love with Lexi and the three become inseparable.

Jude does everything to keep her kids on track for college and out of harm’s way. It has always been easy — until senior year of high school. Suddenly she is at a loss. Nothing feels safe anymore; every time Mia and Zach leave the house, she worries about them.

On a hot summer’s night her worst fears are realized. One decision will change the course of their lives. In the blink of an eye, the Farraday family will be torn apart and Lexi will lose everything. In the years that follow, each must face the consequences of that single night and find a way to forget... or the courage to forgive.

Vivid, universal, and emotionally complex, Night Road raises profound questions about motherhood, identity, love, and forgiveness. It is a luminous, heartbreaking novel that captures both the exquisite pain of loss and the stunning power of hope. This is Kristin Hannah at her very best, telling an unforgettable story about the longing for family, the resilience of the human heart, and the courage it takes to forgive the people we love.

While the night road is a physical place, it is symbolic of the spiritual, psychological, and emotional darkness that the characters must defeat before light and hope can reenter their lives. Kristin Hannah’s exquisite writing style brings to life the most personal, deep-seated emotions of the characters, even the emotions of five-year-old Grace and her great-grandmother Caroline’s are evident. The connectedness from generation to generation is subtle, but the undercurrent is influential and touches many lives.

Fourteen-year-old Lexi, an almost feral child fighting for scraps of life, finally finds acceptance with her great aunt Eva and subsequently with Mia and her wealthy family. Lexi accepts who she is—her background, social and economic static, but she has hopes and dreams like any intelligent, energetic teenager. Her believing that doing good and taking responsibility for her actions will make everything come out all right, brings her grief that drags her to the pits of torment. Lexi’s special friendship with Mia Farraday gives her an education in how life is for the rich and the privileged, but more importantly it makes possible a unique connect with Zach, Mia’s twin brother whom Lexi loved at first sight. She wants him with a “ferocity that terrifies”.

Mia, who declares being her friend is “social suicide” treasures Lexi’s unfailing friendship as does Mia’s family. They see their fragile, lovely Mia bloom into a vibrant, happy teenager.

Jude, Mia and Zach’s mother, totally invested in the ‘doings’ of her children and their friends, is teased by her husband Miles about being a helicopter parent—always hovering. Being in control is of primary importance to Jude. Her home, garden, and parenting style are evidences of this need. She also craves her mother Caroline’s love and approval that she has never had. Jude and her mother’s relationship influences Jude’s relationship with her children and in a very different way it influences how she responds to her granddaughter.

Zach, without even trying, is the heart throb of all the high school girls. However, he feels Lexi is “off-limits” since she is Mia’s friend. But, in their senior year, life changes and the three of them do the foolish last-year-of-high-school things together. Zach, Mia, and Lexi ‘party’ with the other kids with lots of drinking and risky activities going on. Tragedy comes—a tragedy that divides Lexi’s life in two parts, before and after the tragedy. It leaves Zach in a void with no one to help him find his way back. Trying to atone, he studies and excels at school. He faces up to another consequence of his carelessness—but a consequence that gives him a reason to persevere even though his guilt still weighs heavy on him.

Miles, a renowned surgeon and father of the twins, supports and cossets Jude for six years as she is lost in a fog of grief. He and Aunt Eva are both resilient, steadfast people who give stability and security when all else seems to be in upheaval.

Grace Mia Farraday slips right into the heart. She and her invisible friend Ariel bring a special dimension to Night Road. I did so want a scene where she told her mommy and daddy about the things Ariel did and said. I wanted to share that joy of completeness that I felt would come from their knowing.

Kristin Hannah takes the reader deep into the hearts and souls of the characters and taps into one’s deepest emotions. She pulls the reader into the swirling action to vicariously experience the dark depths of tragedy and loss, and to experience the irrepressible love that hunkers down and hides—yet abides. Holding on tightly until the brute storms of life pass, this ‘forever’ love emerges strong and eager to tackle life and move toward that happy-ever-after.

The quotes, before the two parts of the story, are poignant and still very true in modern society. They foreshadow what the characters must work through as they survive the trouncing life gives them.

Night Road, with beautiful symbolism and imagery, deals with the very essence of life and makes the statement “we will overcome” come true. This is a haunting story that lingers in the mind.