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Review: Night Road by Kristin Hannah

night road kristin hannah Review: Night Road by Kristin Hannah

Lexi Baills life has been anything but easy. With an absent father and heroin-addict mother, Lexi finds herself shunted from foster home to foster home. But when she is legally adopted by her aunt, Lexis life takes a turn for the better. She finds herself attending a good school in a good community, and quickly becomes close friends with Mia Farraday. The picture-perfect Farradays are soon a second family to Lexi, and their ties become closer when she begins dating Zach, Mias twin brother. But a fatal accident sees Lexis, and the Farradays, lives torn apart. The consequences are far-reaching, and both Lexi and the Farradays find that piecing back together their lives is a far greater challenge than they ever imaginedparticularly when the past refuses to remain where it belongs.

(the spoiler-averse might wish to stop reading here, as my analysis touches on some key plot points you may prefer to read for yourself)

My thoughts

Best-selling author Kristen Hannah writes with confidence and flair, and it took me all of a few pages until I was completely enamoured of Lexi and her story. Yes, the against-all-odds approach is more than cliched, but Hannah manages to take her characters beyond archetypes and imbue them with such a sense of self that its difficult not to feel compassionate towards them. The narrative initially traces Lexis efforts to become integrated into the world in which the Farradays inhabit, but soon splits into a dual narrative: that of Lexi and the struggles she faces to become accepted both the first, and a second time, and that of Jude Farraday, the claustrophobically protective mother of twins Mia and Jude.

Curiously, I couldnt help but think of F Scott Fizgeralds Tender is the Night (see my review) when reading Night Road, as both novels deal with the growth of one character at the expense of another: in Night Road, Lexi comes into her own as Jude flails, and then, conversely, Jude takes a sense of power from Lexis social demise. The catalyst, of course, is the death of Mia, Judes daughter and Lexis best friend, in a road accidentan accident caused by Lexi, who was at the wheel at the time, and drunk. The effect that this accident has on all parties is obviously devastating: Lexi loses her best friend, and of course her lover Zach, while Jude loses her biological daughter Mia, and also her soi-disant adopted daughter, Lexi. Jude, who has always been protective to a fault, lashes out at Lexi as a result, pressing for a harsh penalty to avenge her daughters death. But these efforts serve only to further punish Jude herself: not only does she effectively lose Lexi, too, but she pushes away her devastated son. Its a challenging scenario, and one that Hannah depicts beautifullythe anguish all but drips from the pages.

But things, of course, are only about to get more complicated, and after Lexi is sent off to prison Night Road gets a little The Lovely Bones on us. Lexi it seems has fallen pregnant to Zach, which poses all manner of problems to these fractured individuals. The pregnancy raises issues such as the value of Lexi and Zachs relationship, the role of Jude as a grandmother and would-be mother, and perhaps most importantly, the notion of life inevitably springing from death (a theme I recently looked at in my recent review of Salley Vickers excellent Instances of The Number 3). But its in this area where I felt the novel flailed a little. Zach, still professing his undying love for Lexi, takes full custody of his new-born daughter without so much as a brief moral struggle (lets bear in mind that this kid is 18 and about to head off to university). His altriusm is unending: he sacrifices everything for his daughter, and continues to secretly love Lexi, despite her lack of reciprocity, throughout the intervening years. For her own part, Jude continues to punish both herself and Zach by refusing to engage with her granddaughter at all.

While Hannah is undoubtedly a good writer, its hard not to stop such a situation from devolving into a soap opera-esque debacle, and unfortunately none of this evokes quite the pathos desired. In fact, it'all becomes rather tedious after a few hundred pages, as Judes anguish, her deteriorating relationship with her husband, and her inability to forgive are reiterated endlessly, and we cover the same narrative ground time and time again. Moreover, the characterisation and setting seem to slowly crumble, too: 'jail scenes of Lexi befriending a tough-as-guts lifer feel like something out of an 80s boxing film, and things struggle to pick up when she gets out of prison and begins, well, stalking her daughter. '(Theres also the fact that Lexis daughters invisible best friend is ostensibly the ghost of Mia, but this very notion strained an already struggling narrative so much that I tried to pretend that this was not the case). While I commend Hannah for attempting to deal with such a challenging scenario, I cant help feel that Heather Gudenkaufs These Things Hidden (see my review) did so with much more elegance.

Narratively, things only become more implausible from here: Lexi and Zach passionately reunite, and Jude manages to rend the outfit of mourning shes been wearing these past years. Its just all so very neat, and all so very convenient. Given that the cynic in me finds it very hard to believe in puppy love as something that will last out the years, I struggled to believe that Lexis past as an ex-con did nothing to sway Zachs feelings at all.

Still, while the narrative as a whole feels rather too colour-by-numbers for me to endorse whole-heartedly, there are some surprisingly good moments in this novel, and I can see why Hannah is such a popular writer. Judes relationship with her husband, for example, is tenderly depicted, and there are many characters who, despite being only sketchily drawn, are easy to empathise withcharacterisation is clearly Hannahs forte as a novelist. The setting is believable, and the dialogue for the most part is spot-on. If Hannah steps away from these neat endings in future, she might well have a winner on her hands.


Rating: star Review: Night Road by Kristin Hannahstar Review: Night Road by Kristin Hannahstar Review: Night Road by Kristin Hannahblankstar Review: Night Road by Kristin Hannahblankstar Review: Night Road by Kristin Hannah (good)

With thanks to Macmillan Australia for the review copy

Purchase Night Road from Amazon | Book Depository UK | Book Depository USA

Other books by Kristin Hannah:

winter garden kristin hannah Review: Night Road by Kristin Hannahmagic hour kristin hannah Review: Night Road by Kristin Hannahfirefly lane kristin hannah Review: Night Road by Kristin Hannah


  1. I enjoyed this, even with the schmaltz, but I agree with a lot of what you said. Thanks for sharing your review!

  2. Stephanie /

    My pleasure, Shelley Rae. There are some really good moments in this, so its a shame about the schmaltz, as you say! I guess Im getting too cynical in my old age. :)

  3. Loved this storyeven cried at parts. Would have loved more at the end. Seemed to end very abruptly as many of this authors books do. There was more story to be told.