Thanksgiving Night by Richard Bausch

Thanksgiving Night


Richard Bausch calls this, his tenth novel, "a love comedy with sorrows." The story is set in the small Virginia valley town of Point Royal, where several of Bausch's other novels and many of his stories take place. It is 1999; predictions of catastrophe blare on the radio, and religious fanaticism is everywhere on the rise. The millennium is approaching.

Oliver Ward and his divorced daughter, a young policewoman named Alison, and Oliver's two grandchildren become involved with Holly Grey and Holly's aunt Fiona, elderly ladies with a marked propensity for outlandish behavior. Holly's son, Will Butterfield, and Elizabeth, Will's second wife by that name, have been happily married for ten years but are about to discover how fragile happiness is.

And in the middle of all of them is an old priest, Father John Fire, who is a good man, thinking of leaving the priesthood. He is called "Brother Fire" by everyone who knows him, after the famous words of Saint Francis when confronted with the burning brand with which he would be martyred. Close to both Holly and Fiona, Brother Fire also has a part to play in the rapidly unfolding family drama.

Thanksgiving Night is a touching and empathetic portrayal of family the one we have, and the ones we make. The people who populate these pages are flawed, wounded, stubborn, willful, scarred, often wildly eccentric, and all searching, in one way or another, for love.


Thanksgiving Night was my second Thanksgiving book I was going to read and well...I just couldn't finish it. It is not like it was absolutely terrible and I hated it per say. It is more that I found it really boring I would fall asleep trying to read it. I will not give up on a book until I have read at least half of it, and this book being 400 pages I read over 200 before it was due back at the library and I just had to call it quits. It was taking me forever to get anywhere in it, though I don't think it was a terrible book. The writing was fine and everything. It was just, as I said, a bit boring to me. 

Part of the problem with this book? I didn't like any of the characters. I really didn't like the crazies, Holly & Fiona, and got tired of reading about them fighting. It was tedious and I just didn't care. Really I wanted everyone to just leave them and not give them the attention they are looking for. Will and Elizabeth should just not answer the phone or go over when they are arguing, which is always. It just...I didn't understand. I didn't like them and it made me tired reading their same nonsense over and over and over again. Elizabeth is starting to tire of them, but I would have not been able to put up with it as long as she has. 

Then you have Oliver who makes lots of poor decisions. He can't seem to not drink too much then drive even though he doesn't really seem to be an alcoholic or anything. His daughter is not very happy, Father Fire is not very happy, really no one in the story is very happy. They are all a mess, unhappy, and not great people. It just seems to go on and on and on and nothing really happens. Or it does, but it is written in such a way that I don't really care much. Like Will cheating, or contemplating, cheating on his wife. Or the teacher who reaches out to Father Fire for his issues. Or anything that was part of the plot in the first half. I did look at some other reviews to see if it seemed to get better, but based on them it sounds like the same thing for another 200 pages so I called it quits. 

Then my other issue? There is a lot of drinking and driving in the book. There is one scene that I think is supposed to be humorous, but I didn't find it funny at all. Really drunk driving is not funny to me ever. I have lost people to drunk drivers so that is just a super definite no go for me. The story is retold of when Fiona drove to the bar and had a few drinks, too many to be able to drive home. She tries to be more responsible and gets a ride with someone else, only he has had too much to drink as well. Somehow, while driving home, the car goes off the road and flying into a tree and lands in said tree upside down. They found Fiona and the guy just sitting strapped into the seat upside down and asleep. No one was seriously injured which is great, but it seemed like it was supposed to be comical and I just can't. There is just too much drinking and driving in this book for me. Really once is too much, but to have the characters keep doing it? Not cool. 

So even with all of this (not liking the characters, the story being boring, tedious, and seemingly nothing important happening, the drunk driving) I still didn't hate the book. I just couldn't seem to make my way through it in the 3 weeks I had to read it. And it is not good enough for me to want to wait to check it out again to finish it. It's alright, but I am fine not finishing it. 

Rating: ★ ★

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