“All Nora Brown wants is to teach high school English and live a quiet life in Seattle with her husband and six-year-old daughter. But one November day, moments after dismissing her class, a girl’s face appears above the students’ desks—a wild numinous face with startling blue eyes, a face floating on top of shapeless drapes of purples and blues where arms and legs should have been. Terror rushes through Nora’s body—the kind of raw terror you feel when there’s no way out, when every cell in your body, your entire body, is on fire—when you think you might die.
Twenty-four hours later, while on Thanksgiving vacation, the face appears again. This time, it whispers, Remember the Valentine’s dress. Shaken once again, Nora meets with neurologists and eventually, a psychiatrist. As the story progresses, a terrible secret is discovered—a secret that pushes Nora toward an even deeper psychological breakdown.
The Night Child is a breathtaking story about split consciousness, saving a broken child, and the split between past and present. It’s about the extraordinary capacity within each of us to save ourselves through visionary means.”
My Thoughts: The Night Child should come with a warning label. This is not only because Anna Quinn‘s debut novel deals with repressed memories and the reasons for them. It is also because Ms. Quinn’s writing is so hauntingly beautiful that it is as emotionally dangerous as anything else the novel holds. In fact, many scenes are almost poetic in their sentence structure and ability to convey so much in a few short words. This is especially true of later scenes as Nora begins to question her sanity.
The Night Child is a tough novel to read. The subject matter is very sensitive and will be a trigger read for some readers. Ms. Quinn is more explicit than anyone will feel comfortable with reading, but she does this so that we can understand Nora’s frame of mind throughout the novel. For if we are uncomfortable merely reading about these scenes, what must the mental trauma be like for someone living them, even if she is a fictional character. Throughout it all, in even the worst scenes, Ms. Quinn still finds a way to be delicate and careful in her verbiage. This too is important if only because she maintains the horror of the situation without delving into the grotesque or vulgar.
In addition to those very difficult scenes, the novel is emotionally exhausting. Ms. Quinn’s writing lures you into the story so that you are emotionally invested in Nora’s well-being. Even if you may not like her as a character, which may be the case as she is not the most enjoyable of characters, her emotions are your emotions. The roller coaster ride she lands on is brutal. With virtually no moments of calm to collect yourself, it is an unceasing barrage of the rawest of emotions, leaving you drained after each reading session.
Throughout it all though, there is remarkable resilience and beauty in Nora’s story and thus in the novel, making it a gorgeous read. The human mind is a marvelous instrument that finds amazing ways to protect itself during the most traumatizing horrors, and it is capable of the most astounding healing. It is this healing which is truly remarkable and makes for some of the most poignant scenes, filling you with hope. After all, if someone can survive what Nora experiences we can survive anything, which means The Night Child is the perfect reminder that not only can things be worse but that things will get better.