NIGHT FLIGHT by Gerald Hausman


Age Range: 14 & up
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 A deeply disturbing novel, based on an incident from the author's childhood. The 12-year-old narrator, Jeff Hausman, has a recurring nightmare during the summer of 1957: He watches his best friend, Max Maeder, fire his .22 into a burlap sack of rats; Jeff, burying the sack, finds kittens inside it. This horrible incident is not a nightmare but a memory of an actual event, and unfolds around the main plot: The neighborhood dogs are being poisoned, and Max asserts that ``Jews'' must be responsible, without knowing that Jeff is half-Jewish. When the friends are punished for victimizing some Jewish neighbors, Max, now aware of Jeff's heritage, threatens vengeance. Jeff saves Max from drowning, in a tidy ending that intimates that Max and his crypto-Nazi father will abandon their prejudices in gratitude. A welter of half-developed themes overwhelms the book's considerable literary merit. Hausman (Doctor Moledinky's Castle, 1995, etc.) provides evocative, convincing descriptions of the outdoors and makes elements of the plot and setting resonate as symbols, but the book is more a series of intensely dramatic set pieces than a seamless whole, and often implausible. The age of the protagonist and the length of the book mark it for middle- schoolers, but the brutality of much of the subject matter and the many ambiguities, intentional or not, demand an older readership. (Fiction. 14+)

Pub Date: April 16th, 1996
ISBN: 0-399-22758-X
Page count: 133pp
Publisher: Philomel
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1996


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