By Daphne Abeel
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian. Crown Publishers. 2011. 378 pp. $25. ISBN 978-0-307-39499-6
Whether it is the author’s conscious intent or not, Chris Bohjalian’s newest novel, set in a remote New Hampshire village, shares an eerie tie with a short story, published 63 years ago in the New Yorker. In 1948, Shirley Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery,” created a firestorm with its tale of a village in northern New England that practiced the rite of sacrifice of one of its citizens in order to ensure a good corn crop for the coming year.
Bohjalian also portrays a small town peopled especially by a group of women who are variously suggested to be shamans, witches or herbalists, who have as their purpose the selection of a prepubescent child, a twin, whose blood and death will ensure the eternal youth and well being of the town.
The story focuses on Chip Linton, a pilot, who with his wife, Emily, and twin daughters, Hallie and Garnet, moves from Pennsylvania to Bethel, NH, to escape the fallout from an aviation accident in which he was forced to crash land his passenger plane in Lake Champlain. While he and some passengers escape, 39 are killed, most notably his co-pilot and a family who have a daughter, Ashley, about the same age as his twins.