Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Elizabeth Crook's The Night Journal

I originally came across The Night Journal at a library book sale not far from here. I'm not sure what exactly made it catch my eye, but something did, and after sitting in a nearby chair and reading the first few pages I thought it might be, not a only something to break up the status quo of what I normally read, but also a book I'd enjoy. I was right. Reading The Night Journal was like escaping to a different world for awhile and getting caught up in history as it was happening. It's a story to curl up in front of a fire on a cold day while drinking coffee with.

Meg has spent her life rebelling against her grandmother Bassie's obsession with the past, and she wants nothing to do with the world famous journals written by her great grandmother in the 1890s. The journals tell the story of Hannah Bass' as she writes about her life..her job at the Harvey hotel as a young lady just turning into a woman, how she met her future husband Eliot Bass who often left her alone while he laid tracks for the rail roads, and how she met and got to know her best friend Vincente Morales. Eventually however, we all have to come to terms with life and face why we are who are, and that journey, for Meg, begins when she is asked to escort Bassie back to her childhood home and the ruins nearby.
"Wow" she whispered.

"They believed it was a link to the underworld, " Jim said.

Her gaze wandered around the walls and came to rest on Jim.

"A time portal," he said.

Indeed, the past seemed preserved here, in this dim, underground environment, as if the people were still down here and time had lost its linear dimension.

"It connected the realm of the underworld to the world above ground, "he said. "Spaniards filled up most of the kivas with dirt and trash so the Indians couldn't come down and worship their gods. So then the Indians built more kivas. And the Spaniards backfilled those, too. That indentation in the floor near the wall is called a sipapu. It was reminiscent of a human navel, and symbolized passage from an even deeper underworld at the beginning of life."

the wind wuthered over the opening, but the room itself, as Meg looked around the walls, seemed untouched by motion. The downward slant of light illuminated particles of dust that hung suspended in the frigid air. Jim stood at the base of the ladder, stark lights and shadows from the shaft of sunlight clinging to his face like paint as he spoke.

He talked about one of the kivas at Pecos that he had excavated.

"What was that like?" Meg asked. "To uncover a place like this?"

Imagine a room filled with dirt," he said. "And every shovelful just might contain a piece of gold. Metaphorically speaking."

"And did it?" she asked. "Metaphorically speaking?"

"We found some potsherds," he said, and she laughed. "We found a soup plate. Two hammerstones. Fragments of oxidized iron. Charred food bones, including those of a domestic rooster. Shall I go on?" but then his expression became serious. "It's like being the first person to walk into a room hundreds of years after the last person there walked out of it." (pg.156-157)

As Meg reads the journals, and feels as though she is, for the first time, beginning to understand her ancestors and who they were, she also discovers a history so secretive and shameful, that Hannah hid it from the very people she was writing the journals for. And, as Meg comes to terms with this, she also comes to discover what she wants and who she wants to be.

The Night Journal is a very picturesque and enjoyable story. At times, I wondered what it would have actually been like to go back and visit it for myself.

On another note, I'd also like to thank the author, Elizabeth Crook, for sending me another copy of the book so could fill in the missing 32 pages as mentioned here.

The Night Journal


seana said...

The whole thing is very cool, isn't it? The journal with the missing memories, the book with the missing pages. Very nice of Ms. Crook to make your reading experience complete. Very nice capturing of the book without giving too much away. I'll take a look at it when I get a chance.

Glenna said...

I hadn't thought of it like that Seana, it's always nice to have a "glass half full" perspective.

One of the things I'm really enjoying about this blog world is getting to chat with some of these authors that write the books I enjoy.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Seems like a good story and your experience about getting the missing pages is fascinating as well. Mighty cool of the author to stop in and get you the pages too.

Glenna said...

Yes it is Sean.