Night Road (Hannah)

Night Road
Kristin Hannah, 2011
St. Martin's Press
400 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780312364427

Summary
For eighteen years, Jude Farraday has put her children’s needs above her own, and it shows—her twins, Mia and Zach—are bright and happy teenagers. When Lexi Baill moves into their small, close knit community, no one is more welcoming than Jude. Lexi, a former foster child with a dark past, quickly becomes Mia’s best friend. Then Zach falls in love with Lexi and the three become inseparable.

Jude does everything to keep her kids on track for college and out of harm’s way. It has always been easy—until senior year of high school. Suddenly she is at a loss. Nothing feels safe anymore; every time her kids leave the house, she worries about them.

On a hot summer’s night her worst fears come true. One decision will change the course of their lives. In the blink of an eye, the Farraday family will be torn apart and Lexi will lose everything. In the years that follow, each must face the consequences of that single night and find a way to forget…or the courage to forgive.

Vivid, universal, and emotionally complex, Night Road raises profound questions about motherhood, identity, love, and forgiveness. It is a luminous, heartbreaking novel that captures both the exquisite pain of loss and the stunning power of hope. This is Kristin Hannah at her very best, telling an unforgettable story about the longing for family, the resilience of the human heart, and the courage it takes to forgive the people we love. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—September, 1960
Where—Southern California, USA
Reared—Western Washington State
Education—J.D., from a school in Washington (state)
Awards—Golden Heart Award; Maggie Award; National Reader's Choice
Currently—lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington


In her words
I was born in September 1960 in Southern California and grew up at the beach, making sand castles and playing in the surf. When I was eight years old, my father drove us to Western Washington where we called home.

After working in a trendy advertising agency, I decided to go to law school. "But you're going to be a writer" are the prophetic words I will never forget from my mother. I was in my third-and final-year of law school and my mom was in the hospital, facing the end of her long battle with cancer. I was shocked to discover that she believed I would become a writer. For the next few months, we collaborated on the worst, most clichéd historical romance ever written.

After my mom's death, I packed up all those bits and pieces of paper we'd collected and put them in a box in the back of my closet. I got married and continued practicing law.

Then I found out I was pregnant, but was on bed rest for five months. By the time I'd read every book in the house and started asking my husband for cereal boxes to read, I knew I was a goner. That's when my darling husband reminded me of the book I'd started with my mom. I pulled out the boxes of research material, dusted them off and began writing. By the time my son was born, I'd finished a first draft and found an obsession.

The rejections came, of course, and they stung for a while, but each one really just spurred me to try harder, work more. In 1990, I got "the call," and in that moment, I went from a young mother with a cooler-than-average hobby to a professional writer, and I've never looked back. In all the years between then and now, I have never lost my love of, or my enthusiasm for, telling stories. I am truly blessed to be a wife, a mother, and a writer. (From the author's website .)



Book Reviews
Hannah follows up Winter Garden with a strained story of friendship, social pressures, love, and forgiveness. After a string of foster homes and the death of her heroin-addict mother, Lexi Baill is taken in by a newly discovered great-aunt who lives a spartan life near Seattle. Despite financial problems, the two are glad to have found each other, and though Lexi resolves to stay safely on the periphery at her new high school, she soon meets Mia, unhappy and awkward despite a solid family life, a loving twin brother, Zach, and a closetful of clothes. The friendship flourishes, and Mia's mother, Jude, relieved and pleased for her daughter, draws Lexi into the family circle. But trouble begins in senior year with a slowly growing attraction between Zach and Lexi, who take great pains to make Mia comfortable with the change in the dynamics. This familiar story takes an unfortunate turn deep into after-school-special territory when Lexi, Mia, and Zach collectively make a bad decision that results in a tragedy with extreme repercussions. Even readers who like their melodrama thick will have problems as Hannah pushes credibility to the breaking point, and more than once.
Publishers Weekly


Hannah (Winter Garden), long a favorite in women's fiction, has written a novel that should propel her onto the book club fiction circuit. Although infused with a tad too much soap opera drama, at its heart is a story about the agonizing choices parents face daily as they try to raise their children to be happy, independent, and well-adjusted adults. Jude is devoted to her two children, twins Zach and Mia. Haunted by a distant relationship with her own mother, she is determined to give her son and daughter every possible opportunity along with an abundance of love and support. Her physician husband, Miles, is supportive but takes a more laid-back approach. Zach is one of the popular kids in high school, Mia not so much. When Mia becomes friends with Lexi, the new girl in school, things begin to look up. Then an unexpected tragedy forces several of the main characters to face a profound and life-changing event. Verdict: Not quite at the level of a Jodi Picoult or Chris Bohjalian story but awfully darn close. Longtime fans will love this rich, multilayered reading experience, and it's an easy recommendation for book clubs. —Margaret Hanes, Civic Center Lib., Warren, MI
Library Journal


Hannah effectively builds tension as the novel moves towards the pivotal tragedy and maintains suspense afterward not only with several surprising twists but, more subtly, with the way she limns the grief and eventual healing of her appealing characters. A breakout for popular novelist Hannah. —Kristine Huntley
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. Jude Farraday is obviously a tenacious and committed mother. She very clearly tries to do anything and everything she can to keep her children safe. Do you think all of this effort makes her a “good” mother? Or is she over-invested in her children’s lives? Does this kind of micro-managing keep kids safe, or put them in a position where they don’t trust their own judgment?

2. One of the powerful themes in this novel is the delicate balance a mother must find between holding on to her children and letting them go. How does Jude succeed in finding this balance? How does she fail?

3. At one point or another in this book, every character feels extreme growing pains. How do you feel each character “grew up” throughout the story?

4. On page 71, Jude observes that her husband accused her of being a helicopter parent, all noise and movement, hovering too close to her children, but if that were true, he was a satellite, positioned so far up in the sky he needed a telescope to track the goings on his own home. How does this sentence illustrate Jude’s view of motherhood? Is she right? Is Miles unaware of what’s going on in his children’s lives? How does Jude render Miles ineffective and what is the price for that?

5. Jude seems to make all the rules for her children. Why does she ignore Miles’ suggestions and advice? Why does he let her?

6. For years, Jude promised her children than they could “tell her anything, that she would pick them at night up no questions asked.” But when put to the test, she fails. Can you understand why she disciplined her children for drinking? What would you have done?

7. When the senior year partying starts, Jude knows that her kids are going to parties where alcohol is served, and she gets proof that they are drinking. How should she have handled this? Should she and Miles have forbidden them from going to parties? Why didn’t they? What were they afraid of?

8. In knowing about the drinking, were Jude and Miles tacitly allowing it? Is it enough to tell your kids about the dangers of drinking and driving and then trust them to make good decisions?

9. In many parts of the country, parents choose to have a “take the keys” party for their teenage children, with the thought that it will be a safer environment. What do you think of this? Would you do it?

10. Jude seems to find a kind of solace in her grief. It appears that she would rather stop feeling anything than to experience her own pain. Do you think this is believable? Understandable?

11. How did Jude’s handling of grief add to the heartache her family suffered? How do her perceptions of fault play into her coldness?

12. Jude has an extremely strained relationship with her own mother. How does this broken relationship contribute to the story?

13. Lexi comes from a very different world than the Farradays. How does her past contribute to the unfolding of the events? How is her past responsible for the decision she makes to drive that night?

14. When Jude discovers the romance between Zach and Lexi, she is immediately worried for Mia. Why? Were her fears justified?

15. Lexi pays an very high price for her actions that night. Did she do the right thing by admitting guilt? How does her past play into and contribute to the decisions she makes about Grace?

16.The author seems to be making some strong statements about the judicial system, especially with regard to power and money. Do you agree that Lexi paid a higher price for her guilt because she was powerless and broke?

17. Jude says at one point that she is seeking "justice" from the court. Is she? Did she find it?

18. Assign blame for what happened on that tragic night. How much of what happened is Lexi’s fault? Zach’s? Jude’s? Mia’s?

19. Discuss your thoughts about Grace’s "invisible" friend. Who is she? How did she help Grace deal with her emotions?

20. In the end of the novel, Jude learns that in the sea of grief, there were moments of grace, moments of time when one could remember what was left, rather than all that had been lost. What does she mean by this? How does it summarize the lessons learned she and Lexi learned? How will this new understanding change all their lives? Do you believe it? Do you think a person can ever truly overcome a tragedy of this magnitude, and if so, how?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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