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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

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

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.
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)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670034772
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
02/02/2006
Pages:
464
Product dimensions:
6.24(w) x 9.42(h) x 1.52(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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The Night Journal 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A friend passed along this book to me and it turned out to be a great read. I have now given 3 copies of this book as gifts!
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite places to visit is New Mexico. While reading this book, I felt like I was in that magical countryside. When I finished, it took me a while to 'come back down to earth' and my mind kept returning to the story and the characters. It felt like a loss, not being able to pick up the book and return to that life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gripping, insightful, and funny too! I lived with Meg and Bassie and Hannah all weekend. Couldn't stop reading. I loved Night Journal! Gripping, insightful, and funny too--a mystery with endless surprises, most dealing with relationships (the essence of mystery?). It's history at its best, a connecting backdrop for our lives. I felt like a Harvey Girl, I breathed the Pecos air, I miss Bassie--and Jim. An edge-of-your-seat action drama set in a meticulously researched historical background, it still has me thinking.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Austin, thirty-seven years old hospital engineer Meg Mabry detests her grandma renowned historian Claudia ¿Bassie¿ Bass, who raised her with an iron fist and expectations of excellence. Bassie made her reputation when she published her mother¿s journal of her life as a Harvey Girl in New Mexico. Before she dies the elderly family matriarch demands her granddaughter reads the six volumes and accompanies her when she makes a pilgrimage to her birth town in Pecos, New Mexico where the visitor's center plans to dig up Dog Hill where Bassie¿s mother buried her pets. --- Bassie, assisted by archaeologist Jim Layton, and Meg dig up the canine bones with plans to inter them elsewhere. However, among the remains is a human skeleton. Stunned by the mystery, Meg turns to the journals she avoided all her life. There she learns her great-grandmother enjoyed her work and apparently loved a nearby sheepherder while her spouse never recovered from the massacre of his family in Utah. --- THE NIGHT JOURNAL is an interesting romantic mystery supported by fictional historical journal entries. The accounts from 1902 provide an intriguing look at New Mexico struggling with three cultures (American, Native American and Mexican) colliding in contrast to today¿s society of partial assimilation and some clashing. The story line includes the ¿required¿ romance between Meg and Jim though that is done in a refreshing manner for this type of novel chick lit style although it remains unnecessary to the delightful historical comparative analysis investigative tale. --- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you have a thing for New Mexico, if the sound of a train whistle in the desert night makes you lonely for the past, this is the book for you. 'Night Journal' has the colorations, layers, depth and magic of a piece of exquisite turquoise.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. The writing is beautiful and heartbreakingly moving, and the characters are unforgettable, rendered with such sympathy and poignancy that I began to feel for them as I would for cherished friends. As the story unfolds, I found myself more and more absorbed by the two worlds depicted, and stayed up all night reading to finish it. From the start, Meg¿s journey is completely compelling, as she begins her long-delayed search for and acceptance of her family¿s famous past and how it has shaped her own life. As Meg reads her great-grandmother Hannah¿s journals, Hannah¿s experiences as a Harvey girl in turn-of-the- century New Mexico unfold and provide a riveting- though sometimes painful- depiction of her life and those times. The contemporary and historical stories flow together seamlessly, as the journals provide clues to the mystery Meg uncovers when she travels to the family¿s old homeplace in New Mexico. The Night Journal is a love story, a family saga, a page-turner mystery, and a keen and insightful exploration of how we come to be who we are.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you have a thing about New Mexico, if you enjoy a contemporary story with a historical plot, if the sound of a train whistle in the desert night makes you feel lonely for the past--this book is for you. 'Night Journal,' has the colorations, the layers, the magic of exquisite torquoise.
wemsh More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books. I've read it twice and loaned it to friends.
bongie More than 1 year ago
This book could have been good had it not gone on and on about nothing.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Did not think this lived up to the reviews I had heard, would not recommend this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This spellbinding story will have you feeling a personal relationship with the people in the present, while clamoring to know more about the people in the past. As Crook brings real places to life with history and present, you'll find yourself mapping out your own trip to Las Vegas, NM and the Pecos Pueblo in hopes of having 1/8 the experience Meg has. Your love/hate relationship for Bassie survives the entire book, and even when you put it down your mind continues to contemplate the situation. The only downside is the book moves slow at times, and you're eager to get back to some action, allowing your mind to skip ahead. Still, for any lover of turn of the century 1900 history, the culture of New Mexico, railroads, or a good generational love story, needs to read this book.
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I liked the historical parts of this book, and would find myself occasionally interested in what was happening, but basically I was just glad when it was over.

I would have enjoyed it more if it had just been written by Hannah and had spent more time with the history of that era. I could have done without the Meg/Jim/Bassie saga.

This was one of those books that I had trouble enjoying because I found each of the characters to be supremely unlikable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book on the strength of other reviews and I was somewhat disappointed. The books' format was an interesting way of writing, but the story was a little weak.
Guest More than 1 year ago
WONDERFUL BOOK. History, mystery, drama, love triangle, beautiful writing and most interestin plot. I can go on praising this author and this book forever. Can not wait for more books from this writer.