Night Navigation: A Novel (Paperback)

Night Navigation: A Novel By Ginnah Howard Cover Image
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Night Navigation opens on a freezing-rain night in upstate New York: the kindling gone, the fire in the woodstove out. Del’s thirty-seven-year-old manic-depressive son needs a ride, but she’s afraid to make the long drive north to the only detox that has a bed.

Through the four seasons, Night Navigation takes us into the deranged, darkly humorous world of the addict—from break-your-arm dealers, to boot-camp rehabs, to Rumi-quoting NA sponsors. Al-Anon tells Del to “let go”; NAMI tells her to “hang on.” Mark cannot find a way to live in this world. Del cannot stop trying to rescue him. And yet, during this long year’s night, through relapse and despair, they see flare-ups of hope as Mark and Del fitfully, painfully try to steer toward the light.

Told in the alternating voices of an addict and his mother, this riveting novel adds new depths to our understanding and our literature of parents and their troubled children.

About the Author

GINNAH HOWARD taught high school English for twenty-seven years and began writing when she was in her mid-forties. Her work has appeared in Water-Stone Review, Permafrost, and A Room of One’s Own, and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. For more information, visit

Praise For…

"A gritty, unblinking, compassionate portrait of addiction – the deceptions, the exhausting repetitions, and most of all the agonizing dilemmas of parental love, which may or may not have the power to save but can never stop trying.” – Joan Wickersham, author of The Suicide Index

"Kafka wrote that a book must be the axe to the frozen sea inside us. Ginnah Howard's astonishing debut novel, Night Navigation, is just such an axe: sharp and fierce, enlivening and enlightening. Howard's gripping tale of a mother who can't stop saving the very son who can't be saved lays bare the marrow of familial love--its messy desperation and its stubborn, enduring beauty." -- Maud Casey, author of Genealogy and The Shape of Things To Come

"Ginnah Howard's raw, vivid account of addiction and codependency unflinchingly explores the vast darkness of guilt and despair. The stark, urgent voices of mother and son ache with anger and love, fear and hope. Howard's ability to dive so deep into the human psyche is a testament to her grace and compassion as a writer. Night Navigation will leave you breathless--a haunting, riveting debut." –Kiara Brinkman, author of Up High in the Trees

"In this bold debut, Ginnah Howard navigates the precarious lives of her people with searing compassion and devastating honesty, opening our hearts to the dark wonder of shared grief and the flickering hope of forgiveness." – Melanie Rae Thon, author of Sweet Hearts

"Night Navigation is unerring in its grasp of the multiple deceptions of the addictive relationship, the self-deceptions above all. You can't help getting furious at its characters. And you can't help loving them." -- Peter Trachtenberg, author of The Book of Calamities

"I fully enjoyed and admired this sparely written, unspairing portrait of a deeply troubled American family. Ginnah Howard is a wonderful new writer." -- Hilma Wolitzer, author of Summer Reading

"This dark debut is a wrenching account of a mother and son moving together and apart in an increasingly tragic family drama. In alternating memoirs, Del and Mark deal with heroin addiction and mental illness (his) and fears (hers) of a fate marked by junkies, pushers, halfway houses and recovery programs. But it's the persistent ghosts of a father and another son, and the guilt over their deaths that hold Del and Mark in a vise grip. Between grief and addiction, there's no easy forgiveness for these sad survivors. Through one bitter, lonely year, Mark and Del lose and find one another repeatedly, and they come to realize that loving someone means letting them love themselves. Howard is a graceful, spare and fluid writer, and her somber and bleak novel has the power to lift and inspire." -- Publishers Weekly

"Harrowing first novel about the uneasy symbiosis of an addict and his mother. Del Merrick... returns from a Florida vacation to find that her heroin-addicted, manic-depressive son Mark has once again hit bottom.... Mark, whose point of view alternates with Del’s, is a well-drawn and sympathetic character, despite the unflinching portrayal of his narcissism—there’s no one he won’t manipulate while ricocheting between recovery and relapse.... Howard’s strength, besides lapidary language, is the ability to build scenes around quotidian activities: starting a wood stove, cleaning, walking a dog, cooking chili and, in a pivotal segment, plotting to banish a large colony of attic-dwelling bats. The red tape and repetitiveness of coping with an addicted adult child fuels suspense as the most pressing question persists: Will Del ever be free of the onus, even just in memory, of caring for all the tormented men in her life? Such stark scenarios will be cathartic for readers who have dealt with —

Product Details
ISBN: 9780547335971
ISBN-10: 0547335970
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication Date: April 14th, 2010
Pages: 324
Language: English