Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Night RoadNight Road by Kristin Hannah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From Goodreads:  Jude Farraday is a happily married, stay-at-home mom who puts everyone’s needs above her own. Her twins, Mia and Zach, are bright and happy teenagers. When Lexi Baill enters their lives, no one is more supportive than Jude. A former foster child with a dark past, Lexi quickly becomes Mia’s best friend. Then Zach falls in love with Lexi and the three become inseparable. But senior year of high school brings unexpected dangers and one night, Jude’s worst fears are confirmed: there is an accident. In an instant, her idyllic life is shattered and her close-knit community is torn apart. People—and Jude—demand justice, and when the finger of blame is pointed, it lands solely on eighteen-year-old Lexi Baill. In a heartbeat, their love for each other will be shattered, the family broken. Lexi gives up everything that matters to her—the boy she loves, her place in the family, the best friend she ever had—while Jude loses even more.

When Lexi returns, older and wiser, she demands a reckoning. Long buried feelings will rise again, and Jude will finally have to face the woman she has become. She must decide whether to remain broken or try to forgive both Lexi…and herself.

Night Road is a vivid, emotionally complex novel that raises profound questions about motherhood, loss, identity, and forgiveness. It is an exquisite, heartbreaking novel that speaks to women everywhere about the things that matter most.

My take: I don't like the book description. It doesn't tell what the book really is. It sounds like Lexi is a problem foster child who breaks up a family then returns to haunt the remnants after destroying them. That's not what the story is about at all. It's about motherhood, grieving, forgiveness, hope, love, and finding joy and beauty in chaos, rebuilding a reality, patience, and so many other things. Here are the cast of characters:

Jude: Middle aged mother of twins, Zack and Mia. She lives for her children and delights in being the helicopter mom. Her life revolves around her children. She is overcompensating for her own mother's shortcomings. Her mother withdrew when Jude's father died. Jude grew up with nannies and an emotional distant mother. She thrives on order and keeping to her plans. Jude's overall wellbeing is reflected in her garden. Jude is the character I wanted to hate the most and at times, I did. But, like Jude, I long for a villain to lay blame upon and ultimately realize all our ills can not be attributed to one act or one person. Jude's character is the most developed in this book. We follow Jude through her perfect life of the wife of a doctor, her beautiful home, her hobbies, and her children. We then follow her through her tragedy, despair, oppressive and overwhelming depression, her withdrawal from all that used to be important to her, and her eventual healing and acceptance. The pages in the end where she walks through her garden and finds beauty in the chaos are poetic.

Miles: Jude's husband of twenty some odd years. He is a medical doctor, well accomplished, easy-going, and very, very patient.

Mia: We meet Mia at the age of 14 on the first day of high school. She is beautiful, albeit quiet, somewhat backward, struggles with her complexion. She is sweet, funny, but lonely. She is known as Zack's sister. She has no identity until she meets Lexie and they become best friends. They spend their high school days and nights telling secrets, sharing dreams, and supporting one another. Mia and Lexie are the epitome of true friends.

Zack: Mia's twin and Mr. Popular. He's athletic, handsome, social, and well-liked. He ignores Lexie completely because of his devotion to his sister. He will not take Lexie from Mia. Eventually, of course, their romance blossoms and Zack and Lexie also share their days and nights together. Zack intimates how frightened he is of failure and disappointing his parents. Zack sacrifices much to keep family peace. He loves deeply, and is devoted to his sister and mother.

Lexie: We meet Lexie as she is entering another foster home. Her mother was a drug addict who died years before. This is her 7th placement. Turns out that a great aunt has been tracked down. She lives in the poor part of town in a double wide but she is unselfish and loves Lexie immediately. Lexie commits social suicide (as explained by her new best friend) by becoming Mia's best friend on the first day of school. She loves Mia immediately. Lexie encompasses eternal hope. Life's been rough for her but she optimistically believes in people. She becomes part of the Farraday household immediately and treads carefully to stay in Jude's good graces. Highly moral and naive, she accepts guilt when it is assigned to her without question.

The Great Aunt (I'm too lazy to go upstairs and look up her name): Small player in the story but very important. She is selfless to a fault and provides Lexie with a sense of belonging and home regardless of circumstances.

Obviously, a tragedy occurs and Lexie takes the fall. Lexie who is from the other side of the tracks or bridge and has so few options makes the choice to atone for the sins of all involved that night. Regardless of the "justice," there is still loss and grief. Each character grieves differently. Each character accepts a different role. One grows a backbone. One realizes the difference between important parts that are left behind in the past rather than "lost." One finds beauty in chaos and finds within the self the ability to feel again. To close off the pain is to close off joy and love.

I didn't cry. No, I did not. I don't cry over a book. Except Tuesdays With Morrie. And maybe just a teensy weensy bit with this one. Just a few tears.

Beautifully written book with a keen understanding of the human heart and nature.

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