Friday, June 11, 2010

Review: Day for Night

Summary: "If you look hard enough into the history of anything, you will discover things that seem to be connected but are not." So claims a character in Frederick Reiken's wonderful, surprising novel, which seems in fact to be determined to prove just the opposite. How else to explain the threads that link a middle-aged woman on vacation in Florida with a rock and roll singer visiting her comatose brother in Utah, where he's been transported after a motorcycle injury in Israel, where he works with a man whose long-lost mother, in a retirement community in New Jersey, recognizes him in a televised report about an Israeli-Palestinian skirmish? And that's not the half of it.

In DAY FOR NIGHT, critically acclaimed writer Frederick Reiken spins an unlikely and yet utterly convincing story about people lost and found. They are all refugees from their own lives or history's cruelties, and yet they wind up linked to each other in compelling and unpredictable ways that will keep you guessing until the very end. -- Reagan Arthur

As you probably know by now, I'm a big fan of the Reagan Arthur books. Such a big fan that Kathy/Bermuda Onion and I decided to host a no-pressure challenge for Reagan Arthur books. What I've found so refreshing about this new imprint is that the books are all so good while also being totally different -- from each other and from other books! The latest book that really impressed me was DAY FOR NIGHT by Frederick Reiken.

After seeing a few really good reviews for this book, I was very excited to start reading it. Plus, my on-line book club decided to read DAY FOR NIGHT for the month of June. I had never read anything by Mr. Reiken before, and I wasn't really sure what to expect. But I will say that I was blown away by this novel and especially how it all came together in the end. This novel really isn't like any other book I've ever read.

In many ways, DAY FOR NIGHT read for me almost like a collection of short stories. Or at least, it seemed that way for a large portion of the novel. Each chapter was about a different character's life, but there were occasions when one of the characters (or locations) would appear in another chapter. Often times, I really didn't understand how the cast of characters and their lives were related; and I definitely didn't know where this book was going. But once the events started coming together and making more sense, I was truly amazed by how the author pulled off this novel.

Rarely do I read a book and just wish I could ask the author some questions, but DAY FOR NIGHT was so complex and so original that I would love to have this opportunity. I am so curious about how Mr. Reiken came up with this story and the characters, and even more curious about his process for writing this book. I'm even dying to know what his inspiration was for this book. I guess I'm just interested in how his mind works because it certainly is very different from my own.

I probably shouldn't admit this, but oh well... As I was reading this book, I absolutely loved it. I thought the chapters about the various characters were interesting, and there is no doubt that Mr. Reiken captured their different voices extremely well. (He is one heck of a writer, in my opinion!) But when I tried to remember the book a few days later in preparation for my book club discussion, I couldn't bring to mind many of the specifics. I had to actually skim through the book again before it all came back to me. I don't think this is any reflection on the book, but rather on my end-of-the-school-year brain. I also think part of the reason might have been because DAY FOR NIGHT was such a unique novel with lots of characters and lots of complexities.

I have to warn you that DAY FOR NIGHT might not be for everyone. There were members of my on-line book club that didn't like it at all, there were members that were kind of indifferent, and there were a few that thought it was an excellent book. Of course when there are these types of different feelings about a book, I think it makes the book ideal for a book club discussion. Having said that, I was the only one at the meeting who actually had a chance to finish the novel so hopefully we'll be able to talk about this book a little bit at our July meeting! I did reiterate to the women that the book does come together in the end (and it's a marvelous conclusion.) I also stressed that I think the reader should just sit back and enjoy the story -- and not try to figure everything out. The author does all of the "thinking" for you; and when it finally starts falling into place, it's a huge treat that's worth the wait!

I loved how Mr. Reiken incorporated so many universal themes into this story. The Holocaust is a very critical part of this novel; and of course, that event brings to mind the persecution of innocent people, terror, and loss to name a few. However, this novel also touches on the randomness of life, chance, coincidence, and how our lives are tied to others. I guarantee that this book will surprise you, move you and deeply affect you. It's well worth reading!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the novel.


Diane said...

Your review makes me want to start this book today! I like the sound of this one, and it's on my shelf so I have no excuse.

Thanks Julie.

S. Krishna said...

It's really funny, because one of the points in my review (posting who knows when!) is that I knew exactly how almost all characters were related pretty quickly, and thus didn't spend time worrying about it. Too funny that we had such different impressions but still enjoyed it!

bermudaonion said...

This sounds like an amazing book - I can't wait to read it!

Amy said...

Mr. Reiken's book sounds wonderful and absolutely riveting. It puts me in mind of that "game" Six Degrees of Seperation. I love books that you really have difficulty putting down and this sounds like one. Your review has me almost running out the door to find the book so I can read it this weekend when it rains! Your review is great, Julie. I'm also going to research Reagan Arthur books. I wish I was able to participate in the challenge you and Kathy designed but as it is, because of the way things are in my life right now, I don't think I'll get to the challenges I already signed up for. But I am going to look into getting some of the books that would foit this challenge. Hopefully Day into Night will be first!

Thank you!
~ Amy

Beth F said...

I am one of the dense ones (see S. Krishna's comment) who has no clue how everyone is going to come together! I am hoping to finish up the novel this weekend -- just relax and read!