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On the Night Plain Paperback – 17 May 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; New edition edition (17 May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862074992
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862074996
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,373,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A terse and haunting story that speaks of the inescapable bonds of blood, the ineluctable hold of the land and the healing powers of work and solitude' Publishers Weekly 'A significant achievement and a worthy addition to the growing body of contemporary western literature' Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

J. Robert Lennon lives in New York State. He was awarded the 1997 Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award.

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Amazon.com: 6 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Just plain good 5 July 2004
By Jan Roelofs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
J. R. Lennon has mastered the art of capturing the simplest gesture or word , putting it on paper and evoking complex emotions and situations. In this, his third novel, the author takes us to the 1940s in Montana, a sheep ranch where two brothers, Grant and Max, with a complicated history, cut fleece, paint, build resentment and love the same woman. The use of "the dead man" in Grant's dreams is eerily effective. There is no clear cut hero or villian, though you do get inside the head of Grant, who allows himself to be seen as the bad guy rather than let his parents, now long gone, take the heat for tragedies in the family. Looking forward to Lennon's newest.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Lucid and Heartbreaking 7 Aug. 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Lennon proves with this new book that he has amazing range. This is a very different book than either of his two previous, but it has at its center what makes all of his work so good: the stories of people who want to be happy while also being good. The combination often fails, and it is this failure that Lennon records with heartbreaking lucidity. Add in his photographer's eye for light and framing, and you'll understand why this is a five-star novel.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Excllent read 1 Aug. 2001
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Since the war with Japan ended, Grant Person has given a great deal of thought about leaving his family's remote ranch on the northern Great Plains. Grant who sees the haunting eyes of his parents and his younger brother Max daily cannot ignore the guilt of another sibling dying while serving his country in Grant's place. Unable to cope with the ghost, Grant takes the train east.
After several years away, Grant returns home to find his mother dead, his father gone, and Max abandoning the dilapidated ranch to paint. Grant decides to try to make a go of the ranch using the money he earned over the last few years as a sailor. A year later, Max returns with his girlfriend Sophia. Not long afterward, Grant and Sophia begin to fall in love splitting the siblings even more than when the older brother walked out several years ago.
ON THE NIGHT PLAIN is a perspicacious look at life on the Great Plains just after World War II. The story line paints a bleak picture of loneliness through the key characters, the two forlorn Pearson brothers. Readers will feel the bitter cold and solitude while trekking along the ranch. Once again J Robert Lennon has taken a dramatic twist from his previous novels (see THE LIGHT OF FALLING STARS and THE FUNNIES) by offering something new and different, yet retains the engaging prose expected of him.

Harriet Klausner
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Burdens shouldered, a life endured. . . 24 Jan. 2004
By Ronald Scheer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The world created by the novel is one where people in one way or another are crushed by the circumstances of their lives. Set in the 1940s in some unnamed state on the Great Plains, it recounts the early adulthood of a man born on a sheep ranch. The life he inherits is one of loss, mischance, and isolation. One by one his brothers die or are killed, as are his parents, until he is the last one alive. Although he is the point-of-view character throughout (and the reader is likely to feel trapped at times in his consciousness), we learn almost nothing of how he survives, except that he escapes for a while to work on a fishing boat in the Atlantic, and seems to turn off whatever thoughts he might have, knowing that any of them could easily lead him to despair.
Guilt and regrets visit him in the form of nightmares, in which a drowned man he once saw on a beach in Atlantic City haunts him wordlessly and gruesomely. These dreams merge so seamlessly with the narrative, it is easy to see the main character's daily existence as an unending bad dream. Briefly he becomes involved with a waitress at a restaurant in town, and in her presence he has moments that touch the tenderness in him, but the role he shoulders is to labor on alone, attempting to salvage the run-down family ranch with the help of hired hands either resigned as he is to their lot in life or bitterly resentful. When his brother, an artist, returns to the ranch with a girl he has met, her presence in this isolated world of laboring men takes a not surprising emotional toll.
This is a novel not for every taste. There's a bleakness that will disappoint readers looking for a more romanticized version of the subject matter. There's an emotional flatness that will not suit those looking for drama or even melodrama. There's an absence of introspection and reflection in the protagonist for those looking for psychological depth. Yet the novel chooses a minimalist narrative style (reflected, I suppose, in the absence of punctuation for dialogue) that is appropriate to its story and is in its own way compelling.
There is a kind of romance even in the absence of it that pulls you forward, watching the way events unfold among characters whose lives have been greatly reduced by the demands of an unforgiving environment. Author Lennon also has a remarkable gift of stark metaphor for capturing nuances of attitude and emotional coloring in both his characters and his landscape. Finally the book reveals much about sheep ranching for readers of Western literature who've become familiar with the details of raising and working cattle. For the success of the novel's particular vision, I'm happy to recommend it.
A love story to break your heart, bleakly beautiful & precise prose 9 Sept. 2011
By Timothy J. Bazzett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
ON THE NIGHT PLAIN contains perhaps some of the most bleakly beautiful prose I have read in many years. The writing is precise. Not a single wasted word. Others have compared it to EAST OF EDEN. But to tell the truth I never was able to get all the way through Steinbeck's book. Not so here. J. Robert Lennon's novel captivated me from page one and kept me that way to the very end. The bitter end, maybe I should say, but I don't want to give anything away.

Grant and Max Person are a pair of brothers I will not soon forget. There is indeed, I suppose, a kind of Cain-and-Abel tension between them, hence the Steinbeck comparison. But the absent parents and other brothers also loom large in their story, shadow characters, you might call them, who have exacted a profound influence on Max and Grant. And of course there is Sophia, rudely displaced from her affluent New York city upbringing, "face fearful and unbeautiful," the proverbial bone of contention between the brothers. But perhaps another equally important character here is the setting - the bleak, unforgiving western landscape with its glacier-scraped ravines and coulees and rugged foothills and mountains.

ON THE NIGHT PLAIN is a novel of the modern west that takes you from the days of WWII right up to the present day. It is a story of a family that struggled valiantly against the elements, against fate itself. It is also a love story that will absolutely break your heart. I loved this book.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir BOOKLOVER
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