... ambitious ... the writing — unflinching yet tender, a sensibility which, like Flaubert’s, suffuses everything — carries us through ... Scenes inlaid with lyrical yet gritty context, act almost chorally throughout the novel as a surging reminder of time’s movement, while also physically grounding us ... Occasionally the story turns graphic; violence is depicted head-on — a departure for this gentle author. Derived from real stories entrusted to Van Booy by three generations of a rural Kentucky family, Night Came studies the long arc of human striving ... Kindness and raw luck undergird Night Came — echoing the trials and windfalls of Oliver Twist or David Copperfield. And like Dickens’s young heroes, Van Booy’s determined souls act with their whole hearts — as does this brave, fierce novel — to earn what good may come.
... a beautifully realized, multigenerational family novel that is exceptional for its memorable, fully developed characters. Readers will become emotionally invested in these quotidian, sometimes sad, lives, watching as Carol and Samuel come of age. Their story is beautifully written, and its mood haunting, as readers are invited to consider the meaning of family and the power of memory.
I've been a fan of Van Booy's work for a long time. His short stories read like jagged glass set in beautiful boxes. Night is not a lot different. A novel, yes, and maybe his best — best of all his work I've read, for sure, and better, by a long stretch, than so much I've read that wasn't written by him. But if his short stories are pieces of glass, each distinct and different, Night is a stained-glass window, shattered. It is a series of vignettes — of moments lifted whole and raw from the lives of a Kentucky family, generations deep — and not pieced together but curated. Each on display. Each its own and complete, but part of a greater whole ... a heartbreaking book, a gorgeous book. A story told in the native tongue and tempos of paint factory employees and domestics and diner waitresses, of the guys working 20 years on the line at the Ford plant and those walking dazedly out into the light after 10 spent in prison...It's a language that Van Booy understands. An ordinary world that he sketches with sharp clarity and a softness that borders on magical. In Night, Van Booy finds the weakness, grace and beauty of common lives fully lived ...And in telling their stories, he makes every one of those lives enormous to behold.
... fractured, melancholic ... The alternating viewpoints and episodic narration sometimes come at the expense of emotional depth and clarity of purpose. Themes of resilience and tragedy come through, though readers will be left wondering about some of the author’s choices.