The Longest Night
A NovelBook - 2016
In 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.
Based on a true story of the only fatal nuclear accident to occur in America, The Longest Night is a deeply moving novel that explores the intricate makeup of a marriage, the shifting nature of trust, and the ways we try to protect the ones we love.
Praise for The Longest Night
"[A] stunning debut." -- Entertainment Weekly
"[A] smart and detailed portrait of a dissolving postwar marriage . . . will remind many readers of Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road ." -- San Francisco Chronicle
"[Andria] Williams's quietly confident style is without swagger or gimmick. . . . What emerges most powerfully from The Longest Night is a kind of quiet wonder at the exquisite intricacy, but astonishing durability, of familial love." --Los Angeles Review of Books
"Think Army Wives meets Serial meets your perfect long weekend read. About an army base with a lot of love triangles, and a cover-up." -- theSkimm
"The tension builds heavily with each page." -- InStyle
"Scintillating . . . A smoldering, altogether impressive debut that probes the social and emotional strains on military families in a fresh and insightful way." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"[A] luminous debut . . . Williams expertly builds tension between Paul and Nat as the story progresses towards the inevitable nuclear tragedy in this utterly absorbing and richly rewarding novel." -- Booklist (starred review)
"Andria Williams's debut is an intimately detailed portrait of love, trust, and guilt in a town--and an era--clouded with secrets." --Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You
"A smart and compassionate novel that offers as many fresh insights into marriage and intimacy as it does about American nuclear history. Andria Williams is a terrific writer--clear-eyed and empathetic--and this is a fantastic debut." --Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans
"It's hard to believe The Longest Night is Andria Williams's debut novel. Her command of language, character and plot--the three essential ingredients for a riveting read--is extraordinary." --David Abrams, author of Fobbit
From the critics
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Hot off the presses, I got this 2016 book from our library's "Newly published" section. I chose it on a whim, but I was not disappointed! The novel spins the tale of a young military couple stationed in Idaho Falls, where the husband works on a nuclear reactor. Williams does a lovely job of character development and writes with nuance and insight into relationships and attraction. I recommend!
Two years, or maybe even a year ago, I would not have described myself as a fan of historical fiction; this seems odd, considering I spent the majority of my university career studying history and that I chose to earn two degrees related to history. Maybe I experienced some burn out after all of that work, or maybe I just hadn't been reading the right historical fiction for me; nevertheless, I find that there are certain time periods and topics that suck me right in.
In addition, I've also found that I love exploring debut authors; like some of the characters in her debut novel, Andria Williams is an army wife and I believe that she has produced a sparkling, dramatic freshman effort. The Longest Night has many elements that I love: set in the mid to late '50s in the midwest; characters with depth who harbor secrets; tense family relationships (aren't they all?); based on an interesting, not-often-discussed historical event; and unexpected twists.
Paul Collier is a true army man, loyal to his core, yet he begins to question some of the details of his assignment; his questioning, left without voice, bleeds over into every other area of his life until he is consumed by it.
Nat, his wife, struggles to fulfill her role as dutiful army wife; especially when her husband is deployed, suddenly, and she is left to care for her two young daughters on her own.
There's Paul's boss, Master Sergeant Richards, who secretly despises the assignment he's stuck with until his 20 years are up; he flirts with the army wives when he's not drinking at his desk during the day shift. Meanwhile, his wife Jeannie tries to maintain a perfect façade for the community; she finds pleasure in the misfortune of others, since it helps her find solace in her own misery.
This novel was a delicious surprise; even if you're not a fan of historical fiction, I would still highly recommend this one to those of you who enjoy the other elements I've listed above. I will warn you that when you get about 75-80% of the way through, you'd better clear your schedule; you won't be able to put it down and there are some devastating twists and turns.
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