*I received this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: The Longest Night
Author: Andrea Williams
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: January 12, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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 the true story of the only deadly nuclear accident to occur in the United States, The Longest Night tells the story of the men who work diligently to keep the C-15 reactor active and working properly, their wives, and their children. Idaho Falls is a small town. It’s one of those places where everybody knows everybody. News travels fast and gossip breeds quickly. This story is driven by the lives of the characters that inhabit this little place. There is nothing much to do, and relationships are everything to the inhabitants.
This story examines marital, professional, and romantic relationships. It addresses a post-war American and the effects of war on the psyches of the survivors. Alcoholism is used as a crutch, but it leads to the ultimate downfall of many men. Alongside the men, are the starkly contrasted lives of their women. This is a time where only single, young women work as secretaries and typists. Married women kept their homes and children for their husbands. Watching Nat Collier, we see that not all women were content with this life. In her husbands absence, Nat finds herself seeking more. It’s not enough to cook and clean and mind the children. Her longing for freedom speaks to an issue of wanting more of a purpose in life. Her friendship with both Esrom, the man who sparks much talk about the town, and Patricia next door are her escapes from the drone of everyday life. Patricia in particular is a fantastic character, although we don’t see much of her. We get the sense that she’s a woman who tells it like it is, without sugar coating things. I would have liked to see more of her and her influence in Nat’s life.
It’s hard to believe that this is WIlliams’ debut novel. The characters are full and well-rounded, the history accurate enough to bring this town to life, and the relationships–both positive and negative–are strong. You can’t help but connecting with these characters. Williams breathes life into them, so much so that you almost expect them to walk off the page. I can’t wait to see what else this author has in store in the future.