n 1959, Nat Collier moves with her husband, Paul, and their two young daughters to Idaho Falls, a remote military town. An Army Specialist, Paul is stationed there to help oversee one of the country s first nuclear reactors an assignment that seems full of opportunity. Then, on his rounds, Paul discovers that the reactor is compromised, placing his family and the entire community in danger. Worse, his superiors set out to cover up the problem rather than fix it. Paul can t bring himself to tell Nat the truth, but his lies only widen a growing gulf between them. Lonely and restless, Nat is having trouble adjusting to their new life. She struggles to fit into her role as a housewife and longs for a real friend. When she meets a rancher, Esrom, she finds herself drawn to him, comforted by his kindness and company. But as rumors spread, the secrets between Nat and Paul build and threaten to reach a breaking point.
2016 has been a year of new experiences. I’ve discovered that I can read many more books than I previously thought and I’ve also realized that I can easily fall in love with a quiet, slow-moving book, as long as the topic or the setting interests me.
I know some of you prefer more exciting, fast-paced stories (and I love those as well!), but deeply enjoying a quiet novel (see Miller’s Valley or Cruel Beautiful World, for example) provides a much more satisfying feeling. Being able to get into the story thanks to its characters or the setting, without having twists happening in every page. It’s definitely harder, but oh so rewarding. The Longest Night is one of those novels.
The novel is based on an actual event that happened in 1962, but I won’t spoil that for you in case you don’t know about it (I didn’t). Nat and Paul Collier are the main characters of this book, a young couple with two daughters who move to Idaho Falls after Paul is assigned to work supervising a nuclear reactor. The town is practically half military, half Mormon and Nat will soon meet the other army wives, like Jeannie, the Master Sergeant’s wife. She also meets a Mormon cowboy with whom she begins a beautiful friendship . Enter rumors, secrets and jealousy…
I couldn’t help thinking about Revolutionary Road -the film- as I kept reading this novel. Although this one is definitely not so depressing (and I prefer it, as I haven’t been able to watch RR again), the setting was really similar and it also dealt with a couple struggling because of the husband’s job and the wife feeling a bit “trapped”and lonely. I loved how the author made it so easy to understand why she felt like she felt: she grew up in California and was used to a different lifestyle, so maybe she wasn’t suited to be an army wife.
My favorite part of the book was the relationship between Nat and Esrom; it was so beautifully written, so tactful and delicate. We’re so used to those “love at first sight” dynamics that we don’t usually appreciate this kind of relationships anymore. It was wonderful and moving and it was handled perfectly.
I would’ve liked to get to know Jeanne more, though. She was fascinating (one of those strong-willed women who seem kind of mean but are actually just sad) and I felt like she could’ve been a bigger part of the book but was given only a few, yet decisive, chapters.
A beautifully written and quiet novel about marriage, loneliness and freedom in a 50/60s military town.
Random House, 2016
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.