Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Night Sounds, Pam Young (3 stars)

From Amazon:  Night Sounds is a story about relationships, good and bad, including marriage and friendship. Similar to John Sayles's book, The Return of the Secaucus Seven, (on which the film, The Big Chill, was based), it is a story about what happens when former college friends reunite--in this case, at a wedding instead of a funeral. Claire, Mollie, Michael and Samantha were housemates who pledged friendship "as long as the grass grows and the river flows." Naturally, when Samantha needs them the most, she'll be enfolded in their love and understanding, because family and friends are supposed to accept, understand, and help. Right?

To outsiders, Samantha’s life is enviable. She has a handsome husband, Jim, and a successful career as a Professor of Psychology and author. But everything is not as it seems. Samantha’s success hides a very dark personal life.

She needs her dear friends now more than ever. Samantha describes her friends, “they represented her hope—for the day she would accept the challenge of her most difficult and certainly most dangerous goal, to leave Jim forever.” Claire, Jessica, Mollie, and Michael are all battling problems of their own. Can they come together and mend their lives?

I commend the author, Pam Young, for exploring the dark depths of physical and mental abuse. There are no easy answers for the victims, and Young proves this through the characters’ choices and corresponding consequences.

Unfortunately, the author tried to capture too many characters’ backstories and the story lost its rhythm. I focused on Samantha, because I wanted her to escape and felt an early connection to her character, but she kept making one bad decision after another. I started to care less and less with each self-defeating action she took.

I don’t pretend to understand how people react to severe mental and physical abuse, but I found myself questioning a lot of these characters’ decisions. And these supposedly lifelong friends seemed to bring out the worst in each other.

Night Sounds is an interesting take on the journey from abuse to self-acceptance, but it lost me somewhere along the path.

Rating: 3 stars

Note: My initial thought was 2.5 stars, but I rounded up because the author took on such difficult material.

I received this book free of charge as part of the WoMen's Literary Cafe Review team.