Night Navigation: Book summary and reviews of Night Navigation by Ginnah Howard

Night Navigation

By Ginnah Howard

Night Navigation
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2009,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

Night Navigation opens on a freezing-rain night in upstate New York: the kindling gone, the fire in the woodstove out. Del’s thirty-seven-year-old manic-depressive son needs a ride, but she’s afraid to make the long drive north to the only detox that has a bed.

Through the four seasons, Night Navigation takes us into the deranged, darkly humorous world of the addict—from break-your-arm dealers, to boot-camp rehabs, to Rumi-quoting NA sponsors. Al-Anon tells Del to “let go”; NAMI tells her to “hang on.” Mark cannot find a way to live in this world. Del cannot stop trying to rescue him. And yet, during this long year’s night, through relapse and despair, they see flare-ups of hope as Mark and Del fitfully, painfully try to steer toward the light.

Told in the alternating voices of an addict and his mother, this riveting novel adds new depths to our understanding and our literature of parents and their troubled children.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Howard is a graceful, spare and fluid writer, and her somber and bleak novel has the power to lift and inspire." - Publishers Weekly.

"Starred Review. Harrowing first novel about the uneasy symbiosis of an addict and his mother." - Kirkus Reviews.

"A gritty, unblinking, compassionate portrait of addiction – the deceptions, the exhausting repetitions, and most of all the agonizing dilemmas of parental love, which may or may not have the power to save but can never stop trying." – Joan Wickersham, author of The Suicide Index.

"Ginnah Howard's raw, vivid account of addiction and codependency unflinchingly explores the vast darkness of guilt and despair. The stark, urgent voices of mother and son ache with anger and love, fear and hope. Howard's ability to dive so deep into the human psyche is a testament to her grace and compassion as a writer. Night Navigation will leave you breathless--a haunting, riveting debut." – Kiara Brinkman, author of Up High in the Trees.

"Night Navigation is unerring in its grasp of the multiple deceptions of the addictive relationship, the self-deceptions above all. You can't help getting furious at its characters. And you can't help loving them." Peter Trachtenberg author of The Book of Calamities

"I fully enjoyed and admire this sparely written, unsparing portrait of a deeply troubled American family. Ginnah Howard is a wonderful new writer." Hilma Wolitzer, author of Summer Reading and The Doctor's Daughter.

Reading Guide

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Wayne Francis
A Fine Novel on More Than One Level
Others more qualified than I am have testified to the veracity of Ginnah Howard's portrait of the complex family dynamics that come into play when a person is afflicted by both mental illness (bipolar disorder) and drug addiction - in a nutshell: the optimum stance for a family member coping with the behavior spawned by one is a potentially disastrous stance for coping with the other. And the people caught in this bind have lives of their own to lead.

What I'd like to stress, however, is Howard's artful, indeed virtuosic, handling of language, her nearly perfect ear and her seemingly instinctive avoidance not only of verbal cliches but of easy turns of plot and characterization. This makes her telling of the story more effective - and more likely to endure - but it also results in prose that will be read with pleasure even by those of us fortunate enough not to relate intensely to the story on a personal level.

After registering this fact, one is not surprised to find that she has other, quite different, stories to tell. I've read some on her web site (www.GinnahHoward.com), where she has posted stories from an unpublished book, "Rope and Bone," and I have also found some stories, originally published in magazines, on the web sites of the magazines.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Jeanie Stuntzner
Stunning fresh voice, powerful story to tell
I don't think Night Navigation could have been more perfect, more affecting. Those characters were so INHABITED. The pacing was tight and so very purposeful. Every single word on every single page had a meaning, and made a gesture towards something we needed to see -- even if we had our "eyes closed" out of love and frustration for the characters. Just flawless. Even if you have never had a personal connection with the themes of the book, you will understand Del and Mark's intricate dance. A must-read if you are in search of a fresh voice. I have a feeling that this will be a movie someday...

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Betsy R. (Gig Harbor, WA)
Night Navigation is reality
The book Night Navigation is a novel but reads as a memoir. It is a difficult book to read, but its honesty about the cycles of despair and hope inherent in a relationship with someone who is addicted is dead-on. Mark's diagnosis of bipolar disorder is an understandable one that often comes with addiction. Because of my own experiences, I related deeply to Del, Mark's mother, who both hated and loved him enough to help even while she often made things worse. This is an important book but its dark and graphic subject matter may mean that not enough people read it. I hope not because it provides insight that most would not get otherwise.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Lois G. (Redding, California)
One to recommend.
I don't know about you, but when I read a really good book, I recommend it to other people. Not just my friends, but people in bookstores with that "what to read next" look on their face. Night Navigation by Ginnah Howard is a great book to tell others about.

I enjoyed reading Night Navigation, with parts of it touching me deeply. I think it would be a wonderful book for a discussion group, due to the fact that certain parts of it may stand out to different readers.

Ginnah Howard is a talented author and I am looking forward to reading her next book. A book that I hope will not be too long in coming.

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Barbara J. (West Valley City, Utah)
mmmm
Book was difficult to read. I thought that it was disconnected.

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Jodie A. (Corpus Christi, TX)
Night Navigation
It did not hold my attention.

...21 more reader reviews

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More Information

More Information

Ginnah Howard taught high school English for 27 years. Her work has appeared in the Portland Review, Permafrost, Blueline, A Room of One's Own, Water-Stone Review, Ballyhoo and Eclipse and Natural Bridge. She has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has been granted residencies at Cummington Community of the Arts, The MacDowell Colony, Blue Mountain Center, Ucross, Hedgebrook, and Saltonstall. She currently lives in Gilbertsville, NY. She can be found online at ginnahhoward.com.

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