Reviews: ‘Day for Night’ by Frederick Reiken
“I liked the book [Day for Night] a lot on an intuitive level. It sounded like a great choice. My kind of book.“- Peter Bartels, Reviews
“Day for Night”- Frederick Reiken
Review by Peter Bartels
Frederick Reiken’s third novel, Day for Night, begins by luring you into a false sense of security. The first chapter introduces the reader to Beverly, a middle-aged woman on vacation in Florida with her boyfriend, David, and his son, Jordan. The scene is simple, and with plenty of internal dialogue and gentle, fast-paced prose, the first few pages read almost like something a Janet Evanovich or Nora Roberts novel. Reiken is quick with the information. They are on a boat, looking for manatees. David has leukemia, Beverly emigrated from Poland as a child, the pimple-faced tour guide has been a little too busy admiring her chest, and so on.
Soon, though, Reiken’s writing betrays his taste for substance—a style that looks to explore issues more latent within his characters, one that mulls over material that cannot be addressed by asking strictly observational questions. Beverly is invigoratingly self-aware as she watches David and Jordan swim with the manatees in the opening scene, and before the chapter is done she takes the time to meet Tim, the young tour guide, and we come to know him as a deeply sensitive man, intuitive and authentic.
The fun begins when the second chapter takes off from Tim’s point of view, on a plane to Salt Lake City with his pseudo-girlfriend to visit her comatose brother. Now any expectation of a fluid narrative can be thrown out the window, and we can settle in for ten chapters narrated by ten distinct personalities. Aside from Beverly and Tim, other narrators include an FBI agent pursuing a fugitive of almost mythical dimensions (named Sachs and Goldman, respectively and cheekily), a neuroscientist, a vet, and various others, connected both intimately and incidentally.
While the idea of laying out a narrative from various points of view is not a new one, and weaving together stories at will often comes off as contrived, Reiken manages to be both fresh and believable as he moves from one story to the next. Not once is the reader overwhelmed or confused by a new narrator. Every character has his or her own place in the crowd, and the string of personal accounts are free to interact naturally while escaping any sense of predictability or blandness. Indeed, each chapter could function quite well as its own short story. The connections they share form a cohesive narrative so vivid that one forgets that they were created and accept them as either happenstance or (as Rieken would have us believe) the language of a deeper world that we cannot understand.
Reiken creates distinct voices that seemingly share a universal (albeit elusive) consciousness. Throughout the book, Reiken’s narrators flirt with the supernatural, collectively surrendering themselves to an implicit understanding that there are things that are simply larger than they are. Day for Night is full of dreamers, and while at times they may approach fantastical, more often than not they embody the idealist within all of us. We accept that which we can’t comprehend, and we only ask the questions we know the answers to. It’s not so much that the ten narrators are cut from the same cloth, but apples never fall far from their trees.
Reiken choses this quote by Jorge Luis Borges as his epigraph:
This web of time — the strands of which approach one another, bifurcate, intersect, or ignore each other through the centuries — embraces every possibility. We do not exist in most of them. In some you exist and I do not, while in others I do, and you do not, and in yet others both of us exist.
Characters’ personal histories point to the holocaust as a potential common ground, but even this is treated as almost peripheral, and the book continues to emphasize shared experiences. Reiken encourages us to accept all possibilities, and to open ourselves up to a world in which everything is somehow linked organically to everything else.