The Longest Night
by Andria Williams
Why did you choose this book? The cover caught my eye
When did you read this book? March 2017
Who should read this book? Readers interested in stories set in mid-century US
Source: library ebook
My Rating: ✰✰½ 2½ Stars
Here is a synopsis of The Longest Night from Goodreads
In this absorbing and suspenseful debut novel—reminiscent of Revolutionary Road and inspired by a little-known piece of history—a young couple must fight to save both their marriage and the town they live in.
In 1959, Nat Collier moves with her husband, Paul, and their two young daughters to Idaho Falls, a remote military town. An Army Specialist, Paul is stationed there to help oversee one of the country’s first nuclear reactors—an assignment that seems full of opportunity.
Then, on his rounds, Paul discovers that the reactor is compromised, placing his family and the entire community in danger. Worse, his superiors set out to cover up the problem rather than fix it. Paul can’t bring himself to tell Nat the truth, but his lies only widen a growing gulf between them.
Lonely and restless, Nat is having trouble adjusting to their new life. She struggles to fit into her role as a housewife and longs for a real friend. When she meets a rancher, Esrom, she finds herself drawn to him, comforted by his kindness and company. But as rumors spread, the secrets between Nat and Paul build and threaten to reach a breaking point.
Based on a true story of the only fatal nuclear accident to occur in America, The Longest Night is a deeply moving novel that explores the intricate makeup of a marriage, the shifting nature of trust, and the ways we try to protect the ones we love.
This book left me feeling disappointed. I was really looking forward to reading it, but the setting in the late 1950’s in a small town at the beginning of the nuclear age led me to expect something a bit different than what actually I got. I think I expected a story strong on the potential dangers surrounding nuclear power in the early days of the technology, and a story about one reactor gone wrong and the cover-ups leading up to the event. It was there, kind of, but not until very late in the book and not in much detail.
Instead what I got was a story about military relationships; how hard it is to be a military wife and remain faithful while your husband is deployed, how much a wife is wiling to sacrifice to remain in a marriage in hopes of being rewarded with a military pension, etc.. I credit the story in that it did give an interesting look into life as a woman in the 1950s and the subservient role women were forced to play in a marriage. However in general, this is a book full of unhappy people and, for me, a pretty depressing read.
There seemed to be storylines in there that were never really developed and left me wondering why they were in there. One example is a storyline involving Eddie Hollister, a soldier that had worked with the Master Seargent at a previous base and was sent to the location in Idaho Falls. He showed up for a few pages along with his past, but then that story never went anywhere and I’m not sure why he even appeared in the book. (I’m leaving out spoilers here; there is a little more detail than just ‘showing up’).
There was also my pet peeve — no epilogue! After they leave Idaho Falls, some with lives in tatters, we don’t really know what happens to them past the immediate future. I’d like to know what happens five years down the road; did the characters survive?, did their relationships survive?, etc. The worst thing about this is that the reader’s guide at the end of the book pretty much asks me to write the epilogue, in the form of a “What do you think happens to…” question! That’s not fair! You invented the characters; please tell me what happens to them!
The book got some pretty good reviews from others on Goodreads, so check it out if you are interested. It was a bust for me, but you may be one of the readers that love it!
For more information about the events that inspired this article you can read the Wikipedia article here or watch the documentary linked below.