“I think that if you haven't read Stewart O'Nan . . . you have some catching up to do.” Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly
“With one foot in the genre of horror-supernatural and the other in literary fiction, this book defies classification.” Brian Richard Boylan, San Francisco Chronicle
“Chilling...By juxtaposing the angst of teenage years with the hoarier dread of middle age, O'Nan has put his finger on how frightening and swift is the hand of fate.” John Freeman, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Stewart O'Nan is a literary ventriloquist. Each of his novels is is so different that he seems capable of doing anything he chooses.” Dan Cryer, Newsday
The Barnes & Noble Review
Already noted for novels filled with darkly stunning themes and images (The Names of the Dead, A Prayer for the Dying), Stewart O'Nan enters the realm of the supernatural with a thoughtful, sorrowful, and moving tale that revels in its Halloween backdrop.
One year after the tragic car accident that claimed the lives of three teenagers, their families and friends continue to agonize over the continuing consequences. O'Nan's narrative voice is graceful, meditative, and filled with a tension that underscores elements of the truly mournful. The three ghosts act as a chorus to explore the minds of the tragedy's survivors, including the police officer who is at least partly responsible. At turns humorous, forgiving, childish, and rude, they are at the mercy of whichever hometown resident happens to be concentrating on them at any given time, so that the spirits are forced to "beam in" on various neighbors. Each of these characters tells his own story, allowing O'Nan to smoothly switch vistas and provide a vivid panorama of emotion and understanding.
The Night Country is as much about being haunted by guilt, doubt, and responsibility as it is about being plagued by ghosts. Stewart O'Nan has not only given us a masterpiece of chilling poignancy; he's also written one of the most engaging, human, and heartfelt novels of the year.
The novel's power lies in its density of observation...its unsentimental sympathy and its occasional, unexpected bursts of humor...O'Nan has written a ghost story that deliberately subverts the conventions of the genre...The result, while not easy to categorize, is satisfying and complex: a seamless merger of the fantastic and realistic that addresses universal human concerns, illuminating questions of guilt, grief, loss and obsession with greatand unsparingfidelity.Bill Sheehan
More poignant than terrifying, this contemporary ghost story set in suburban Connecticut focuses on the survivors of a car accident that killed three teenagers on Halloween exactly a year before the novel begins. Tim escaped without a scratch, but seeks to assuage his survivor's guilt on the first anniversary of the event. Kyle, once a teen rebel, is now a brain-damaged shadow (a kind of zombie) of his former self. Brooks, the townie cop who discovered the accident, watches helplessly as his life skids out of control. And most poignant of all, Nancy Sorensen, Kyle's mother, stoically cares for her damaged son and tries to heal a marriage nearly destroyed by grief. These sad characters are haunted in another way as well, by the ghosts of the three killed instantly in the crash: Marco, Toe and Danielle, who address themselves directly to the reader. "We're on a mission," they say, but their objective is never explicitly stated; they just observe as the day's events unfold. Each character's story is told (and, eventually, woven together) in O'Nan's simple, searching prose, which captures the inchoate passion and longing of teenage life as well as the bleak resignation of middle age. O'Nan demonstrates remarkable restraint; there's no grasping for tragic meaning (the accident was "just something random that happened to us, bad luck," according to Marco) or melodrama. Despite some confusing shifts in time-it's occasionally hard to decipher what's happening now and what happened then-a coherent thesis of misfortune emerges: death has many victims, and the ghosts haunting the survivors don't only appear on Halloween. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Narrated mostly by teenaged ghosts, this novel revisits a Halloween night car crash in a small New England town that kills three high school students and injures two others-one physically and one psychologically. Taking place around the one-year anniversary of the crash, the story focuses on Officer Brooks, the local policeman who was at the scene, and student Tim Morgan, who survived and now plots a deadly commemoration slated to include the other survivor-the brain-damaged Kyle Sorenson. The destinies of Tim and Officer Brooks become inextricably linked as they act out their private rituals of atonement: Tim for his survivor's guilt and Brooks for the terrible secret he harbors about that night, a secret that has wrecked his marriage and derailed his career. Events spiral toward the shattering and seemingly inevitable finale, which Tim has planned for the same time and place as the original accident. This is a haunting and haunted tale, one whose stark originality transforms a common small-town occurrence into something approaching the mythic. Recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/03.]-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
O'Nan (Wish You Were Here, 2001, etc.), who's made a career exploring the dark side, welcomes Halloween with a "ghost story" that soars when the supernatural lets good old-fashioned character take center stage. In a small Connecticut town on October 31, a night that traditionally culminates in soaped windows, tossed eggs, and bellyaches from too much candy, a group of carousing high-schoolers are laid waste in a car accident. Three die and two live: one seemingly intact, the other severely brain-damaged. A year later, as the exact moment the careening car got wrapped around a tree approaches again, the ghosts of the dead teenagers return to haunt-and observe-the living. Narrated by the ghost of Marco, the self-proclaimed "quiet one," we meet fellow ghost Danielle (girlfriend of Tim, the one who survived intact); ghost Toe, the speeding driver (who secretly loves Danielle, even in death); and those left behind whose lives were horribly altered by the tragedy. Tim, about to graduate high school without his friends, carries the burden of still existing; Brooks, the cop with a secret who was first at the scene is "fifty-three, in debt, alone, a mess"; Kyle, a former pot-smoking rebel who now can barely tie his shoelaces; and Kyle's mother, Nancy, who tends her diminished son and mourns her empty marriage. The mildly malevolent ghosts swirl around and play tricks, but the real trauma comes when we're privy to the thoughts of the living and their attempts to cope with memory and guilt: Nancy making a memorial wreath to hang on the tree; Brooks doggedly tailing Tim in a futile attempt to keep him safe; and Tim, rethinking endlessly his horrible plan to end the pain as the witching hourapproaches. A skilled writer, a complex novel, mixed results. Agent: David Gernert/Gernert Company