Book/page totals

Top 10 Lists

Sunday, May 27, 2007

It was good that I wasn't deterred by the embarrassingly corny 80’s cover on this book (not the one shown), because it was worth reading. This is a back-and-forth, roundabout story that centers on Sheryl, her unexpected pregnancy while in high school, and her mother’s decision to immediately send her to live with an aunt hundred of miles away. Rick, the boyfriend left behind, has no inkling of what has happened and grows increasingly frustrated when his calls and visits to her old house go unanswered. Thinking that her mother is keeping Sheryl from him against her will, he stages a coup of sorts, enlisting the help of several friends. They arrive at Sheryl’s house at twilight with makeshift weapons, and Rick roughly demands to see her. The neighborhood men are roused to stave them off with garden tools. That Night harkens back to time when households mingled in their neighborhoods: children playing outside with each other, fathers chatting at the mailbox, mothers dropping in to chat (do people do that anymore?). McDermott skillfully fleshes out the drama and interest in a seemingly dull suburban street.

The novel is narrated in the first person by a 10-year-old neighbor girl of Sheryl’s, never named, who is nevertheless a keen observer and often privy to her parents' thoughts on neighborhood events. The nonlinear narration makes room for instructive flashbacks and premonitions as well as future reflections. There are several variations on the theme of the salvific properties of love: Sheryl is saved through loving, Rick is saved by being loved, women in general are saved by having and loving children. Throughout the book, there are examples of the paradox of maternal love. The pure, intense, life-giving love of a mother often or always ends in disappointment, and a mother’s love cannot save her children. Even the fulfillment of maternal love, well-adjusted and happy adult children, ultimately renders the mother unnecessary. Though I wasn't convinced that these themes were universally applicable, they worked well in the novel and made a complete and compelling story.

Title:That Night
Author:Alice McDermott
Date published:1987
Number of pages:184
Notes:Recommendation from Book Lust


Lark said...

What is Book Lust?

Sapo said...

Book Lust is a reader's guide written by Nancy Pearl. I've just started looking into books she recommends. Honey for a Woman's Heart by Gladys Hunt is a better reader's guide, but I've read many books reviewed there and needed something more.

Google Search