From the first sentence of this book I was enthralled, hardly able to put the book down. This was the book that led me to discover that you can indeed read and power walk on the treadmill at the same time. The gym even has these handy dandy little holders that prop the book open for you while you swing your arms and sweat.
This story moves back and forth through time and place in a captivating way. We open with the death of Hannah Bass in Las Vegas*, New Mexico just after the start of the twentieth century. We quickly move forward in time to the early nineties in Houston, Texas where our heroine, Meg, is in her late thirties and is unmarried. Well, she’s not married to a man anyway, but rather to her job. She is an engineer with lots of clients that require pure water for their patients’ dialysis. This is a tough job especially when it rains too much and threatens the breakdown of the purification system. She was brought up by her overbearing grandmother Bassie since her mother’s addictive behavior made mothering impossible. Half the time I just wanted to knock Bassie over the head with how mean she is to people. She is the quintessential grouchy old lady who tells it like it is sometimes to the detriment of her relationship with others. Bassie has spent her life devoted to researching and publishing her mother Hannah’s journals. Hannah captured the heart of the west at the turn of the century and her journals have quite a following, except for Meg that is. Meg avoids reading the journals in a subconscious attempt to thwart Bassie’s controlling nature. But don’t fret because Meg does finally launch into a reading of the journals on a road trip back to New Mexico. At the behest of elderly Bassie they journey there to put a stop to construction on Dog Hill where lies one of the few memories Bassie has of her mother and also the bones of the family dogs.
What makes this book so interesting is the realistic relationships between the related women. This isn’t a feel good book where everything comes out peachy keen at the end, far from it. Yet the strength of the story lies in the way these women relate to one another and how that relationship pervades every part of their lives. They are inexplicably intertwined no matter how hard they strive to deny it. Oh yeah, and there is a bit of romance thrown in the mix too.
Elizabeth does an excellent job of story telling and even manages to throw in a plot twist or two at the end. This is the first of her books that I’ve read but I’ve got a feeling it won’t be the last. If you only read a few books this year, Night Journal should be on that list. -Flourish
* The Las Vegas in New Mexico is pronounced with an “e” sound rather than with the “a” sound. I’ve been there ya’ll and it is quite a pretty little town indeed. Love brought me out there in the early 90s for a higher education scouting trip and I almost ended up attending New Mexico Highlands University. But alas, the love ended and I found myself back home in Florida for the next decade. I’ve gotta admit it was kind of strange seeing snow on the ground in April. That historic Plaza Hotel is there just as it’s described in the book. New Mexico was quite an adventure overall and I highly recommend a road trip or flight there. I sure enjoyed this walk down memory lane. I wonder how my life would have turned out if I’d taken that route…