In her review of Frederick Reiken’s novel Day for Night, Donna Seaman, writing for Booklist, called it a “morally and historically complicated” story that was written with “shrewed humor” and subtle fantasy. One of the main themes in Reiken’s novel is that of interconnectedness. The complications include a long list of characters, some of whom are only vaguely implied in the plot while others play major roles.
The story begins in the 1980s outside Tampa, Florida. David is dying from leukemia. He and his thirteen-year-old son, Jordan, along with his girlfriend, Beverly, are about to take a plunge into a river, where they hope to romp with a group of manatees. The manatees are terribly scarred by unfortunate encounters with the swirling blades of boat engines, but they are unusually friendly and encourage nuzzling with the three swimmers. Their nature guide, Tim Birdsey, assures the swimmers there is nothing to be afraid of. Tim is a guitar player and invites them to a gig his band has that night. Beverly is the only one shows up, and she meets Dee, the female singer of the group. Tim tells Beverly that both his father and grandfather committed suicide. There is a chance that his grandfather was a Nazi.
The point of view changes in the next section, as the story follows Tim and Dee to Utah. Dee wants to visit her brother, Dillon, who is in a coma. Dillon was in a motorcycle accident while visiting Israel. Sitting next to Tim on the plane is a woman who shakes her head, signaling she does not want to engage in a conversation. This woman will become more involved in the story later.
Upon landing, Tim wants to know why Dee needed him to come along with her. Although they are involved in a sexual affair, Dee is living with Jerry, the drummer of their band. Dee is evasive, mentioning only obliquely why she might need Tim’s support. She tells him that she has written a letter to Tim, one that will better explain who she is. But before enlightening Tim further, she must read the letter to her brother. She hopes that hearing what she has to say might lead Dillon out of his coma. While reading the letter to Dillon, Dee is interrupted by the appearance of her parents. Dee and Tim run out of the hospital.
The story changes its focus to two FBI agents, Leopold Sachs and Scott Witherspoon. These men are recounting their long investigation of fugitive Katherine Clay Goldman. Goldman was the silent woman sitting next to Tim on the plane. The agents have interviewed Tim and Dee and have read Dee’s letter, which details Dee’s and Dillon’s childhood and the torture they endured through their parents’ involvement with a hostile cult. The results of this torture has caused Dee’s personality to fracture into several disjointed sections.
The FBI agents go to Dee’s parents’ home to further their investigation and discover that the parents have taken Dillon out of the hospital and are hiding him. Just as Agent Sachs finds Dillon, he is accosted by Goldman, who suddenly appears in the darkened room and takes Dillon away.
The story switches to the point of view of Jennifer, who is Beverly’s daughter. (Beverly is the woman from the beginning of the story who went swimming with the manatees.) Jennifer relates incidents of her senior year in high school. One of them involves her sneaking into her mother’s room and discovering four letters written to her mother, Beverly. Beverly was born in Poland before World War II. Her family was Jewish and attempted to escape Poland. There were five members together, but only Beverly and her mother made it. Her father, Yonah, and Uncle Pinchus and Aunt Doris remained behind.
Over the years, in researching the possible whereabouts of...
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