Clare Burke has spent eighteen years, two of them in a maximum security prison, hoping to hear from her older sister, Anne [so it connects to her mention below] On a frigid morning in Montauk nearly two decades earlier, Clare’s attempt to rescue her sister from an abusive marriage went horribly wrong. It was the day Clare lost her freedom and her family—the day her life was shattered. After her release, Clare manages to put her life back together, resuming her nature writing and urban birding around New York City. Anne has since moved to Denmark, still with her husband and still too furious or too afraid to reach out to her sister.
Clare Burke has spent eighteen years, two of them in a maximum security prison, hoping to hear from her older sister, Anne [so it connects to her mention below] On a frigid morning in Montauk nearly two decades earlier, Clare’s attempt to rescue her sister from an abusive marriage went horribly wrong. It was the day Clare lost her freedom and her family—the day her life was shattered. After her release, Clare manages to put her life back together, resuming her nature writing and urban birding around New York City. Anne has since moved to Denmark, still with her husband and still too furious or too afraid to reach out to her sister. Clare’s scarred hands are a constant reminder of that dreadful day. But worse are the gaping emotional wounds left from her sister’s betrayal and the years they’ve spent apart.
A few weeks before Thanksgiving, Clare receives a letter that takes her breath away. Her niece, Grit, is about to arrive on her doorstep. The last time they saw each other was when Grit was a little girl, staring at Clare in terror after she had hit her father with a burning log.
Once Clare learns the truth behind Grit’s sudden visit, the two women set about dismantling the secrets that have haunted their family for years. As Grit reluctantly reveals details of her life—her brother’s disappearance, her father’s relentless abuse, and her mother’s complete disconnect with reality—Clare is more determined than ever to get through to her sister. How can she breach the emotional wall Anne’s husband has built? And will helping her sister find freedom cost Clare as dearly as it did before?
Luanne Rice’s Little Night explores the mysterious, resilient bonds that tie one family together. It’s a story of the complex interaction between hope and truth—and learning that it’s never too late to fight for the ones we love.
- Pamela Dorman Books
- June 2012
- 336 Pages
“Poetic and stirring…beautifully combines [Rice’s] love nature and the power of family.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Best-selling author Rice’s 30th book is an outstanding read that both chills and warms the soul…highly recommended.”—Library Journal, starred review
“Never rushing her story or revelations, Rice reaches the satisfying conclusion that while wounds run deep, love runs deeper.”—Booklist
Though she’s spent time in prison, Clare looks young for her age. The bartender at Clement’s reflects, “Prison usually bled the life out of a woman, burned off her beauty and intelligence, left her looking bitter” (p. 28). He compares Clare to his cousin who went in and out of prison for fifteen years and looked like a “wizened winter apple.” Why do you think Clare fared so well compared with the woman he describes? How was her situation different from those of most women in prison?
Clare says that her sister has always thrived on difficult relationships, that she needed “rockiness to test her loves and make sure they could take the worst of her, prove that they’d stick by her” (p. 100). What factors do you think contributed to her dysfunctional relationships? Recall some of Anne’s other relationships before her marriage. Could Clare have helped her before things got out of control? Explain your answer.
On page 107, the idea of lenchak is introduced. What are some other examples of lenchak that you can think of? Do you agree with Grit’s assessment of who is the owl and who is the seal? Why or why not?
Grit is concerned that she’s blowing out of proportion the feelings she has for her aunt. To be sure, she tests the aunt/niece feelings with Sarah. How do you explain the bonds that tie a family together? How are they different from friendship?
One of the things that first attracted Anne to her husband was his fiery passion for his art. In what ways might she have mistaken his abuse toward her as merely an extension of that passion?
Grit longs to assert the differences between her mother and herself. How does she go about it? Can a child ever truly overcome the mark left by his parents? Why or why not? Did you ever make it a point to behave differently from your mother or father? Were you successful?
How would you describe the relationship between Paul and Clare at the beginning of the novel? What are her reasons for shutting him out of her life? How would you characterize their relationship at the end of the book? What’s different? What do you think precipitated the changes?
Grit is concerned that Dennis might be an “emotional adventurer” (p. 213)—a seemingly well–adjusted person who thrives on the misery of others. What are her reasons for thinking so? Do you think he is? Have you encountered any emotional adventurers in your life? What were your experiences with him or her?
When Anne and Grit were together in Denmark, why does Anne observe her daughter from a distance rather than spending time with her? How do you think things might have ended up differently if she’d been able to have a healthy relationship with her children?
Do you believe what Grit says about what happened at the bog, that it was purely an accident? Why or why not?
Grit has always been frustrated by the “huge gap between what her mother wanted—or said she did—and what she was actually capable of doing” (p. 69). How has Anne’s abusive marriage affected her? Is it ever appropriate to assign part of the blame to the person enduring the abuse? Later, Clare says that Anne “doesn’t have a choice anymore” (p. 168). Do you think that’s true? Why or why not?