DAY FOR NIGHT by Frederick Reiken
“It is a story that is much bigger than we know. Do not confuse the life you live with the story, says Loopdy Lupe. Do not be afraid to leave the story. You may get scared sometimes because you fail to understand that what is scared is not you. It’s the story. The story looks for a way to travel. The story is afraid you will let it go.”
Review by Bonnie Brody (APR 26, 2010)
Frederick Reiken’s Day for Night is an astonishing and magical book filled with mystery, history and compelling narratives. At its center is a supposed occurrence during the Holocaust wherein 500 of Lithuania’s most educated and cultured jews were slaughtered by the Nazis. The novel is comprised of several linked narratives, each one told by someone else. At first it is difficult to see how these narratives are connected, but as the story unfolds, the reader is able to recognize the connections. They unfold beautifully like a field of flowers. Multiple plots and subplots meld together to create an indelible whole.
The novel takes place in 1984. It starts out with Beverly, her boyfriend Daniel, and her boyfriend’s son Jordan, swimming with the manatees in Florida. Daniel is dying of leukemia and Beverly plans to adopt Jordan upon his death. Their guide for this trip is Timothy Birdsy a gangly young man in his twenties. When he is not guiding people to see manatees, he is part of a rock band. The lead singer in the rock band is a girl named Dee who comes from a horrific background – her family belongs to a cult where child abuse is prevalent. In the evening, after viewing the manatees, Beverly goes and hears the band play and experiences some magical moments with Timothy. Dee has a voice that can change people’s lives.
Beverly is one of the narrators in this novel, as are Timothy and Dee. Their connections are not at first evident but become so as the book unfolds. Beverly has a daughter named Jennifer who has just been picked up by the police for blowing up her teacher’s mailbox. Jennifer is one of the brightest students in her school but, obviously, her choice of after school activities is not too clever. Jennifer narrates a segment of the book as well.
Dee and Timothy go on a stealth trip to Utah to visit Dee’s brother who is comatose after being in a motorcycle accident. They travel in secret because they do not want to run into Dee’s horrible parents who will not allow Dee to see her brother. It just so happens that they are sitting in an airplane row next to a woman who the F.B.I. has been hunting since the 1960’s. Because of this, they are questioned about their connection with her, if any. This woman has an amazing array of aliases and has managed to elude the police for over two decades. She also possesses some magical charisma that enriches this novel.
In Utah, Dee and Timothy get Dee’s aunt Julia’s identification so that Dee can pose as Julia and get in to visit her brother. Only eight people are allowed into the hospital room which is guarded 24/7. Julia is one of the eight people allowed in. Interestingly, the woman who is running from the F.B.I. is one of the others who has access to the room. Once in the room, Dee reads a long letter to her brother about their shared past. She believes that even though comatose, he is able to hear and feel what others have to say to him. Julia figures more prominently later in the book. In fact, most of the characters that are brought up have a larger part to play as the novel progresses.
This novel attempts to show that there is little degree of separation between all things and all people. Often using the ocean as a metaphor, Reiken goes into the symbiotic relationships of plant and animal life, developing that theme to show how his characters are often reliant on one another for the creation of history or the unfolding of events.
My only problem with the book is that some of the characters are given short shrift and we are left to wonder what becomes of them. They are so interesting and their stories so absorbing that we want them to continue. Often, they don’t. But, that is probably Reiken’s point. We are like dominos, leaning on one another and creating action that is often momentary and short-lived but may have a huge impact somewhere else – in this world or some other. Reiken’s characters question life and death. They can be magical and otherworldly. What is for sure, however, is that somehow they are all connected.
As this book resolves, the story of the 500 men is told and the connection from the past made apparent in the present. This is one of the best books I have read this year. It kept me fascinated all the way through. The writing is compelling and beautiful. Reiken uses quotes from the great philosophers, Borges, theology, and the great thinkers to give substance to his characters’ belief systems. The book is a page-turner for the thinking reader. It is hard to put down. It is a book I will think about for a long time and, most likely, read again.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 44 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Reagan Arthur Books; 1 edition (April 26, 2010)|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||YES! Start Reading Now!|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Frederick Reiken|
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