In The Night Child, Anna Quinn gives us a well-written, engaging story — which is not to say, necessarily, she has anything new to say about sexual abuse.
Her story is that of an adult woman who's personality divided in two after being abused by her father as a child. As the story unfolds, we watch a childhood personality — the one that protected her and allowed her to survive — come to the surface as her marriage falls apart and her daughter nears the age when the narrator herself was raped by her father.
I wish I had more to say that's going to suggest this book as one that deserves a spot on your reading list, because it definitely hooked me, even when I knew where the story would go. Its worst part is its predictability, something forever ruined by the likes of Gone Girl. Make no mistake — this is no "unreliable narrator" book, despite a woman with a schism in her psyche. And that's a good thing, as there's no reason — in fiction or real life — to sensationalize sexual abuse.
This is not to suggest the topic isn't worthy; Quinn's book, however carefully crafted and well-penned, fails to give us new insight into a topic, but that doesn't make it not worth, however. As I've said, Quinn tells her story masterfully and powerfully. And even when I knew where the story would go and almost how it would go there, I kept reading.
Her ending itself almost satisfies; we finish reading unsure if the narrator chooses life or death. It's less Love in the Time of Cholera than it is, say, The Lady and the Tiger.
The reality is, even if the story isn't new, perhaps we should never stop reading these stories. Quinn has said in several places — her author website and her Writer's Digest column two of them — that this was her memoir turned fiction (understandable; fiction is freeing in ways real life is not). This may not be a new story, but it's an important story and, to a large part, it's a true story.
One last thought: You may see on the jacket cover a quote reading "Quinn is hanging with the bog dogs... like Jodi Picoult...." and know this: That is utter bullshit. The Night Child is far and away much, much better and more deserving of your time than anything ever penned by Picoult.
Cathy Salustri is the arts + entertainment editor. Contact her here.