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Jude does everything to keep her kids out of harm's way. But senior year of high school tests them all. It's a dangerous, explosive season of drinking, driving, parties, and kids who want to let loose. And then on a hot summer's night, one bad decision is made. 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.
"You cannot read Night Road and not be affected by the story and the characters. The total impact of the book will stay with you for days to come after it is finished." —The Huffington Post
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Behind the Novel
How little I knew about the world, and about parenting. When my son started school, I relaxed a tiny bit. He had made it past the dangerous yearsor so I thought. He had learned how to cross the street, to wear a helmet, to ask for help, to stay away from strangers. But how do you keep them safe when the danger comes from within?
Senior year of high school. The Big Year.
I wanted so much for him in that yearto love his classes, do well in his endeavors, ace the SAT, go to the prom, sign his yearbook, pick his college. All of it. I remembered how much fun I had senior year, and I wanted the same for him.
I didn't realize how much the world had changed ... and how much it had stayed the same.
It's been five years now since my son graduated from high school, and those few years have given me a little space. I've gone through the empty nest and come out on the other side. Now, finally, I can look back on that incredibly difficult year and see it for what it was. See me for who I was, and see the mistakes I made along the way. And I made more than a few, believe me.
In retrospect, I think we underestimate the immense pressure our kids are operating under in that last year of high school. We don't realize how much they want to make us proud ... and how much they fear failing. They're ready to fly away from the nest, but they don't really want to test their wings. Everything is dangeroustests can be suddenly failed, teams can lose, application deadlines can be missed, hearts can be broken.
And then comes spring. The party season.
Believe me, whatever you remember abouthigh school parties hasn't changed. Teen parties still spring up like mushrooms in dark, quiet places, far from adult eyes. Weekend after weekend.
"How could I have been a better mother?"
For me, this became the most challenging time of all. As I said before, I am a person who researches things. I pride myself on my ability to gather knowledge. I don't want to operate in a don't ask/don't tell world. I believe in honesty and transparency. Unfortunately, there's a price to all that honesty. Sometimes your kids tell you what you don't want to hear.
In looking back, I have tried to come up with The Answer. The right way to parent in that stressful, dangerous year. What should I have said about all the pressures he was under? How could I have been a better mother? How should I have dealt with the threat of teen drinking and driving? What's the right answer when the partying starts?
These are the questions that started me out on Night Road. The novel is my exploration of the year that is so pivotal, both to parents and kids.
It was definitely stressful. It was also exciting, exhilarating, and magical. Here's what I didn't know then: Everything I said to my son, he heard. I didn't need to say it twice or underscore it or remind him. He heard it all and took what he needed. In the end, we both grew up and learned that trickiest of skills: how to let go and hold on at the same time.
Reading Group Guide
For a mother, life comes down to a series of choices.
To hold on…
To let go..
Which road will you take?
For eighteen years, Jude Farraday has put her children's needs above her own, and it showsher twins, Mia and Zachare 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 her kids leave the house, she worries about them.
On a hot summer's night her worst fears come true. 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.
Discussion Questions for NIGHT ROAD by Kristin Hannah
1. Jude Farraday is obviously a tenacious and committed mother. She very clearly tries to do anything and everything she can to keep her children safe. Do you think all of this effort makes her a "good" mother? Or is she overinvested in her children's lives? Does this kind of micromanaging keep kids safe, or put them in a position where they don't trust their own judgment?
2. One of the powerful themes in this novel is the delicate balance a mother must find between holding on to her children and letting them go. How does Jude succeed in finding this balance? How does she fail?
3. At one point or another in this book, every character feels extreme growing pains. How do you feel each character "grew up" throughout the story?
4. On page seventy-one, Jude observes that her husband accused her of being a helicopter parent, all noise and movement, hovering too close to her children, but if that were true, he was a satellite, positioned so far up in the sky he needed a telescope to track the goings-on in his own home. How does this sentence illustrate Jude's view of motherhood? Is she right? Is Miles unaware of what's going on in his children's lives? How does Jude render Miles ineffective and what is the price for that?
5. Jude seems to make all the rules for her children. Why does she ignore Miles's suggestions and advice? Why does he let her?
6. For years, Jude promised her children that they could "tell her anything, that she would pick them up at night with no questions asked." But when put to the test, she fails. Can you understand why she disciplined her children for drinking? What would you have done?
7. When the senior-year partying starts, Jude knows that her kids are going to parties where alcohol is served, and she gets proof that they are drinking. How should she have handled this? Should she and Miles have forbidden them from going to parties? Why didn't they? What were they afraid of?
8. In knowing about the drinking, were Jude and Miles tacitly allowing it? Is it enough to tell your kids about the dangers of drinking and driving and then trust them to make good decisions?
9. In many parts of the country, parents choose to have a "take-the-keys" party for their teenage children, with the thought that it will be a safer environment. What do you think of this? Would you do it?
10. Jude seems to find a kind of solace in her grief. It appears that she would rather stop feeling anything than to experience her own pain. Do you think this is believable? Understandable?
11. How did Jude's handling of grief add to the heartache her family suffered? How do her perceptions of fault play into her coldness?
12. Jude has an extremely strained relationship with her own mother. How does this broken relationship contribute to the story?
13. Lexi comes from a very different world than the Farradays. How does her past contribute to the unfolding of the events? How is her past responsible for the decision she makes to drive that night?
14. When Jude discovers the romance between Zach and Lexi, she is immediately worried for Mia. Why? Were her fears justified? WBRT: Prepress/Printer's Proof
15. Lexi pays an very high price for her actions that night. Did she do the right thing by admitting guilt? How does her past play into and contribute to the decisions she makes about Grace?
16. The author seems to be making some strong statements about the judicial system, especially with regard to power and money. Do you agree that Lexi paid a higher price for her guilt because she was powerless and broke?
17. Jude says at one point that she is seeking "justice" from the court. Is she? Did she find it?
18. Assign blame for what happened on that tragic night. How much of what happened is Lexi's fault? Zach's? Jude's? Mia's?
19. Discuss your thoughts about Grace's "invisible" friend. Who is she? How did she help Grace deal with her emotions? 20. In the end of the novel, Jude learns that "in the sea of grief, there were islands of grace, moments in time when one could remember what was left rather than all that had been lost." What does she mean by this? How does it summarize the lessons she and Lexi learned? How will this new understanding change all their lives? Do you believe it? Do you think a person can ever truly overcome a tragedy of this magnitude, and if so, how?