Book Review: Day for Night

This will be one of the very few times I ever use the publisher’s summary for a book.  But honestly, I have no. idea. how. to summarize this book.

As a child, Beverly Rabinowitz fled Europe with her mother during World War II. Almost half a century later, while vacationing in Florida with her boyfriend and his son, a chance encounter leads to a strangely lucid moment in which she senses that her father, long believed to have been killed during the war, is close by. It’s the first of many seemingly random events that in fact are guiding Beverly, and the people in her life, towards a startling discovery.

Over the course of Frederick Reiken’s provocative, intricate novel, Beverly will learn that her story is part of something larger, and brilliantly surprising. Because her story is not hers alone, but also that of a comatose teenage boy in Utah, an elusive, Sixties-era fugitive, an FBI agent pursuing a twenty-year obsession, a Massachusetts veterinarian who falls in love on a kibbutz in Israel, and a host of other characters. Day for Night illuminates how disparate, far-flung people can be connected, and how the truth of those bonds can upend entire lives. Each chapter is a small universe of its own, and together they form a dazzling whole.

Day for Night may be the most confounding, startling, and beautifully written books I’ve read this year.  It is, without a doubt, the most confusing by far, that is for sure.  I read this book a couple of months ago and I’m still confused.  I was lucky enough to read it with Jen from Devourer of Books.  We discussed this book for a week.  I’ve read countless reviews of the book, and summaries, and, I hate to admit it, but I feel I remain mostly in the dark as to what exactly happens in this book.

It is not my intention to speak in riddles, but I will suggest that it is very natural to see all of these things as a big puzzle you must assemble. I will suggest, as well, that certain pieces will not fit, not now or ever, and that you must learn to live with these ambiguities.  You must also learn to trust these ambiguities.  This is perhaps the most important thing I know.

This quote cracks me up.  Not because it is silly, it’s far from it. What makes me laugh is the part “it is not my intention to speak in riddles” because this book is like one giant riddle to me!  And I totally agree with “certain pieces will not fit, not now or ever” because there were certain pieces that didn’t seem to fit.  It’s like the author left me this secret message saying “It’s okay, you’re not going to get it, don’t worry about it!”  And I didn’t!

I recognize that we are all magicians in some way.  We are complicit in all we see and comprehend that what we see will never coincide with absolute reality.

To me, and I have no idea if this is correct, it seems as if Reiken was trying to imitate life with this book.  There are so many things in motion around us, things we have no idea about, but affect us in so many ways.  That slow car in front of you on the way to work this morning may have prevented you from having a serious accident.   The man you had a chance encounter with at Starbucks may turn out to be your boss someday.   There are just so many things affecting your life and this book seems like an attempt to represent that.

As a result, the human brain must make a narrative.  This I can say with certainty, and yet each narrative we choose will reach a point at which it no longer suffices.  One narrative must inevitably be abandoned for another.  In this way, any narrative sequence defers meaning, even beyond the point at which it appears to end.

It almost feels like Reiken took some random (and do I mean random!) things and attempted to tie them all together into a narrative.  He made a narrative, like the quote says.  It was random, it was connected, it was baffling – but it was also beautifully written.  This book has some of the most beautiful prose I’ve read this year.  These three quotes, besides being, in my mind relevant to my interpretation of this story, are my favorites for how amazing they are.  So yeah, whether I “got it” or not, I feel like I kinda “got it.” Hmm…that doesn’t make sense.  Or does it?  My best advice is read it.  Read it with a friend.  Read it with your book group.  And be prepared to think.

Also, I found this interesting – from Fizzy Thought’s review:

And while I was googling for cover images, I stumbled across the meaning of the title. Day for night is a cinematographic technique in which night-time is created by the use of special lights. In other words, you’re creating the illusion of night-time. Hmmmmm.


Day for Night
Frederick Reiken
Category: Baffling Contemporary Fiction
Published by: Reagan Arthur Books
Format: Hardcover
On Sale: April 26, 2010
ISBN: 9780316077569

Purchase from

The Book Depository | IndieBound | Powell’s Books

Other reviews by:

Devourer of Books | The Book Lady’s Blog | Fizzy Thoughts | Booking Mama | She is too Fond of Books… | S. Krishna’s Books | BermudaOnion | Beth Fish Reads

I am a Book Depository, Powells, and Indie Bound Affiliate and will make a very small profit if you buy a book through one of my links.

9 thoughts on “Book Review: Day for Night

  1. I love the way your categorized this book because I totally agree with you – I appreciated the writing in this book very much but felt like I wasn't quite smart enough to get it. Thanks for linking to my review, by the way. I'll add your review to the Reagan Arthur Books Challenge blog.

  2. This book was really tough for me to wrap my head around. Yes, the prose were beautifully written – I had many, many marked; but I was left with several "whatever happened to …" and "what was the point of …." questions. You're conclusion that this is what Reiken intended is one that makes sense, especially in light of FizzyThoughts' "Day for Night" cinematic definition. Thanks for linking to my review, Heather.

  3. I wanted to read this one but if it leaves me confused and still unsure I am afraid that is an emotion I will not be happy with.

    Very well done review.

  4. As much as I enjoyed reading your review, I think this is a book I need to skip. Sounds like I would end up feeling stupid because I didn't understand it…and goodness knows I don't need any additional evidence of my stupidity. 😛

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *