The Night Journal

The Night Journal

3.7 23
by Elizabeth Crook
     
 

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A mesmerizing novel of four generations of Southwestern women bound to a mythical legacy

With its family secrets and hallowed texts containing explosive truths, The Night Journal suggests A. S. Byatt’s Possession transplanted to the raw and beautiful landscape of the American Southwest. Meg Mabry has spent her life oppressed by her

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Overview

A mesmerizing novel of four generations of Southwestern women bound to a mythical legacy

With its family secrets and hallowed texts containing explosive truths, The Night Journal suggests A. S. Byatt’s Possession transplanted to the raw and beautiful landscape of the American Southwest. Meg Mabry has spent her life oppressed by her family’s legacy—a heritage beginning with the journals written by her great-grandmother in the 1890s and solidified by her grandmother Bassie, a famous historian who published them to great acclaim. Until now, Meg has stubbornly refused to read the journals. But when she concedes to accompany the elderly and vipertongued Bassie on a return trip to the fabled land of her childhood in New Mexico, Meg finally succumbs to the allure of her great-grandmother’s story—and soon everything she believed about her family is turned upside down.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Sumptuous, surprise-filled . . . The Night Journal is near perfect, a beautifully restrained epic with nary a wasted word. (Texas Monthly)

Crook has a clear gift for detail and dialogue. . . . [T]here’s plenty to keep you engaged and engrossed in The Night Journal. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Kirkus Review
Reading the journals of her Harvey Girl ancestor sends a young Texas woman back in time to the New Mexico frontier in Crook's warmly drawn novel (Promised Lands, 1994, etc.).

Thirtyish Meg Mabry, an administrator in an Austin hospital, has a prickly relationship with her irrepressible grandmother, Claudia Bass. A renowned historian universally known as Bassie, the old lady made her reputation by publishing the journals of her mother, Hannah, a Harvey Girl at the Montezuma Hotel in New Mexico at the turn of the century. Bassie also essentially raised Meg after the girl's alcoholic mother proved unreliable. She now insists that her granddaughter accomplish two things before Bassie dies: Meg must read the six volumes of her great-grandmother's journals, and she must accompany her grandmother to Pecos, where Bassie was born and lived briefly before Hannah died of TB. To her ire, Bassie learns that the visitor's center in Pecos, located near the site of the old Bass homestead, plans to excavate Dog Hill, where the bones of her mother's pets are buried. With the help of mild-mannered archaeologist Jim Layton, Bassie and Meg dig up the dog bones in order to remove them. But what is a human skeleton doing buried there? While this mystery unfolds, Meg plows through great swaths of the journals, which make delightful reading as Hannah vividly describes her work at the hotel and friendships with other waitresses. But they have a darker side as well. Hannah's husband, engineer Elliott Bass, bore lifelong emotional scars resulting from the murder of his family by Mormons during the infamous Mountain Meadows wagon-train massacre in Utah. During their marriage, Elliott traveled extensively, laying track for the fledgling railroad, sending home detailed letters (also included) while Hannah experienced a growing intellectual attraction to the son of a rich local sheep-rancher.

A multilayered narrative of impressive historical perspicacity, enriched by the author's loving attention to character.

Publishers Weekly
At age 37, Meg Mabry, a single, overworked medical engineer, still hasn't found her place in the world, a predicament due in part to her rejection of her heritage. She's the great-granddaughter of Hannah Bass, a woman whose journals about frontier life in New Mexico (dating 1891 to 1902) have become famous thanks to Meg's grandmother Claudia Bass (Bassie), a historian who built her career promoting the diaries. But Meg resents the domineering Bassie (who raised her) and refuses to read the journals, acoping strategy Crook doesn't make entirely credible. Meg finally delves into Hannah's story when she reluctantly accompanies her grandmother from Austin, Tex., to Pecos, N. Mex. There, a discovery at the burial site of Hannah's dogs calls into question the veracity of Bassie's life work. Meg, meanwhile, falls for archeologist Jim Layton and embarks on a journey into her family's past that will confront her with some difficult truths about herself. Excerpts from the journals punctuate the layered but sometimes unconvincingly plotted narrative, and the historical detail depicts the uneasy late 19th-century melding of Anglo, Native American and Mexican cultures. Crook's third novel (after Promised Lands) blends mystery, chick-lit-style romance and historical fiction for a glimpse of the current and past American West. (Feb. 6) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Meg is sick of her family history-great-grandmother Hannah was famed for diaries detailing her daring life on the frontier as a Harvey Girl and subsequently a railroad engineer's wife. But then Meg discovers that the diaries may not have been entirely truthful. With a six-city tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143038573
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/30/2007
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
305,460
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Sumptuous, surprise-filled . . . The Night Journal is near perfect, a beautifully restrained epic with nary a wasted word. (Texas Monthly)

Crook has a clear gift for detail and dialogue. . . . [T]here’s plenty to keep you engaged and engrossed in The Night Journal. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Crook is the author of two previous novels and has been published in anthologies and periodicals such as Texas Monthly and Southwestern Historical Quarterly. She has devoted most of the last decade to researching and writing this book.

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