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The Night Journal

About the Book

The Night Journal

In her third novel, author Elizabeth Crook creates a transporting story of one family's legacy over the course of one hundred years, stemming from the diaries of a frontier woman faced with the duties, passions, and dangers of her times.

In The Night Journal, the diaries of Hannah Bass have attracted the attention and devotion of academics and readers for decades. Candid and passionate, written in the 1890s, the journals offer the rare account of a woman in the American West during the Victorian era, a time of expansion, indiscriminant violence, and burgeoning industry.

Nearly a century later, the journals have been edited and published to great acclaim by Hannah's only child, Claudia Bass, known to all as Bassie, now a retired professor of southwestern history and respected worldwide for her work transcribing her mother's journals. Bassie's granddaughter, Meg Mabry, however-a thirty-seven-year-old career woman who as a child was raised by Bassie and remains bitter toward Bassie's domineering, caustic guardianship and the burden of her expectations-finds the very thought of the family legacy oppressive and refuses even to read the journals.

When Bassie learns that the hill on the property of her childhood home is going to be flattened to make room for modern expansion, she insists that Meg travel with her to New Mexico to recover the skeletal remains of two dogs her mother buried there. She recalls being awakened during the night to the sound of gunshots and remembers seeing her mother, Hannah, and a man named Vicente Morales take a pickax to the frozen ground and dig the grave for a dog shot by poachers. Driven and determined in her memory, Bassie refuses to let this one final and vivid image of her mother be bulldozed away.

But when the ground is excavated, far more than dogs' bones are unearthed, and the discovery of what is buried in the grave sends Bassie and Meg on a search back through time to the turn of the last century and into the secret lives of Bassie's mother and father-Hannah and Elliott Bass-and Vicente Morales. The journey shakes the foundation of the history on which Bassie has built her life and her long career and changes Meg's perception of the past as well as her expectations for her own future. In the fabled landscape of her ancestry, Meg allows herself at last to read the journals and reconstruct the past, solving a shocking and confounding mystery. With the support of Jim Layton, the archaeologist involved in the excavation, she sets out to find the one missing journal-suspected to exist but never confirmed-that will detail the final year of Hannah's life and shed light on the unexplained disappearance of Hannah's husband, Elliott.

Both a fascinating historical epic of the Southwest and a searing personal story of one family's coming to terms with its own past, The Night Journal is a contemporary love story and a historical mystery, depicting the conflict between cultures in New Mexico at the turn of the last century, between sexes both then and now, and inevitably the conflicts between generations. It is centered on the mystery of the contents buried in a dog's grave, but the underlying, broader mystery is about connections between the past and the present and the ways in which people relate to their ancestors both in life and in legacy.

The Night Journal
by Elizabeth Crook

  • Publication Date: January 19, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • ISBN-10: 0143038575
  • ISBN-13: 9780143038573