Night Road by Kristin Hannah
Reviewed by: Jennifer S. Roman, RadiantLit.com
Genre: Chick Lit
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: March 22, 2011
Lexi Baill has been in foster care so many times she’s lost count. Her alcoholic mother makes periodic stops to take custody of Lexi, only to go on a binge and disappear again, leaving Lexi in yet another foster home. As a result of her addictions, Lexi’s mother dies when she is just seventeen and she fears she will go into yet another foster home. Her social worker surprises her by telling her that she has an aunt living in the Pacific Northwest who is willing to take custody of her. Her aunt is by no means wealthy, but she loves and cherishes Lexi, who is happy to have someone love her.
On the first day of school in her new town, she befriends a young girl sitting all by herself at lunch. Mia is the quiet, reserved part of a set of twins. Her brother, Zach, is outgoing and popular. Mia and Lexi become inseparable, and even though she has feelings for Zach, she ignores them out of respect for Mia. Eventually Mia learns of Lexi’s feelings and gives the two her blessing. It’s their senior year of high school and everything works out perfectly, until the three go to a party and get drunk. Mia decides to drive the short way home, but she crashes the car and Mia dies. She takes full responsibility for the accident and ends up spending five years in jail. The rest of the story deals with how Mia’s family processes her death and how Lexi and Mia’s family treat each other afterward.
Bestselling novelist Kristin Hannah writes provocative and heart-wrenching stories, each with their own issues and challenges. Every story is based on a charged, difficult subject, and she manages to throw a wrench into the system so that readers will be even more intrigued. In this case, not only is Lexi in jail, but she gives birth to Zach’s baby. She believes it is in the best interest of the child to give full custody to Zach, whose family will help raise the little girl. Readers are easily torn between blaming Lexi for driving drunk and feeling such pain for her losses. Kristin Hannah winds up a good story with not necessarily a perfect ending, but an acceptable one. Life doesn’t usually end up with the perfect, storybook ending, so this is probably more true-to-life anyway.
Night Road deals with mature themes and may therefore not be suitable for younger readers. There are some curse words and sexual situations. There are scenes in which underage students drink and smoke marijuana, and of course there is violence in the tragedy of the accident. Because of these themes, readers who are not tolerant of difficult situations may want to steer clear of this book. Readers who are able to handle such adult themes will enjoy a sad but eventually hopeful novel.