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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.
Stunning fresh voice, powerful story to tell
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 I've read some on her web site (www.GinnahHoward.com), where she has posted stories from an unpublished book, "Rope and Bone," and I have also found some stories, originally published in magazines, on the web sites of the magazines.
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...
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.
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.
Barbara J. (West Valley City, Utah)
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.
Book was difficult to read. I thought that it was disconnected.
Jodie A. (Corpus Christi, TX)
It did not hold my attention.
Carol J. (Isle, MN)
Tough, realistic read
Not an easy book to read due to the topic, but realistically written. Even without a child with an addiction one can identify with Del's desire to fix her son's life. I believe the author accurately portrayed the ups and downs of the life of the addict and those around him.
Interesting Portrayal of Addiction
I would recommend the book for anyone dealing with addiction, personally or peripherally. Some interesting insights as to the ripple effects of addiction.
I really enjoyed the dual perspectives from mother and son on the son's addiction as well as mom's response to the addiction. I found that I wanted to keep picking the book up and read it later into the night than I should have. Even the peripheral characters had depth - mom's boyfriend as one. There was a lot going on - with their lives- the addiction, mental illness and past relationships with other characters and deceased family members.
I'd recommend it for book clubs since there are many decisions - good and bad - and consequences. We'd probably all see a part of our selves in someone.