An American couple travel to a strange, snowy European city to adopt a baby, who they hope will resurrect their failing marriage. This difficult journey leaves the wife, who is struggling with cancer, desperately weak, and her husband worries that her apparent illness will prevent the orphanage from releasing their child. Their attempt to claim their baby is both helped and hampered by the people they encounter: an ancient, flamboyant chanteuse, a debauched businessman, an enigmatic faith healer, and a stoic bartender who dispenses an addictive, lichen-flavored schnapps.
... pure Gothic horror, filled with phantoms and demons and other avatars of the uncanny ... Mr. Cameron’s ability to flicker between the eerie and the grubbily banal defines his fascinating recent project of revising classic literary genres ... The novel’s indeterminacy is both intriguing and moving, because it means that one character’s loss is another’s consummation, and an unbroken night is both a source of terror and the condition of a long-desired resting place,
... [a] masterpiece ... while [Cameron's] previous books have most often explored relationships between gay men, both with each other and with their own selves, this new novel—suspenseful and almost hallucinatory—is at least at first glance a departure in terms of subject and setting, but thankfully not in style ... The magical quality of Cameron’s prose comes is tethered to a precise language of interior reality rather than specificity of place, and the cold, bleak city where his characters arrive in the masterful opening chapter is as vaguely described as its characters’ emotional states are exhaustively chronicled ... Cameron renders his images delicately and purposefully, allowing odd and memorable details to accrue into a kind of mosaic—but this is a mosaic that has been left deliberately incomplete, the missing pieces all the more glaring and unsettling for their absence. No truth can be taken for granted as such, and events often take place off the page in order to instill a sense of disorientation in the reader to match that of the novel’s characters. And many important moments in the narrative happen in the dark, as if to crowd the emotional depth of the story with too many physical details would be unseemly—or perhaps to heighten the sense of unreality, to highlight the perpetual presence of danger ... if Cameron paints a picture that’s sometimes as bleak as the landscape against which the events of What Happens at Night are cast, there’s also the promise of an eventual arrival at a place of hope—or maybe what could be better described as acceptance, a way to live with the wisdom that has now been so agonizingly hard-earned. The train eventually leaves the forest in the end, the view from the window suddenly bright and clear. And the final line of this brilliant gift of a novel is a punch to the gut, as well as an almost Rilkean call to action.
...cascades into a series of Waiting for Godot-esque moments in which anticipation is frequently met with frustration and further delay ... It’s a weirdly compelling mix of all the elements that make us human and all the situations that test our humanity.