Adam Hamdy’s The Other Side of Night is one of those rare books that is truly unclassifiable, which means that it is also the perfect book to be Exhibit A in any discussion of why the whole concept of categorization is illogical, reductive, and ultimately pointless. A novel can be – and likely is – many things at once; and what that meaning is to each reader will vary vastly. Nowhere is this more evident than with The Other Side of Night.
David Asha was last seen stepping off the cliffs of the Peak District. Most assumed he was overwhelmed by the loss of his wife, but why would he choose to leave his young son parentless? Harriet Kealty is a discredited police officer, not because of what she did, but rather because she is unable to prove what she did not do. Linking these two lives together is Ben Elmys. Ben is Harri’s ex and an old friend of the Asha family who now serves as the caretaker for David’s son, Elliott.
A cryptic note written in the margins of a secondhand book lead Harri down an audacious path that is both frightening and comforting in equal measure. Is this message an indication of murder? Or might it mean something completely different?
There are at least three stories at play here. David Asha’s decision to write a book about his greatest regret – his separation from his son. Harriet’s police work – both past and present. And Ben Elmys’ guardianship of Elliott – and the secret he shares with the boy which changes everything.
Spoilers would be impossible to avoid by going any deeper into this story. The Other Side of Night is best consumed with as little expectation and foreknowledge as possible. This is not the story it seems to be from the start, but it will be the story you need by the end. I use “you” here intentionally because The Other Side of Night is a book that will have very personal ramifications for each reader, but those effects will be different depending on the life led by each particular reader.
Adam Hamdy’s prose elevates what is already a very lofty novel to incredible heights – at times feeling like poetry. Along with the standard viewpoints expected, The Other Side of Night includes transcripts from a trial, extracts from a book, journal entries from multiple sources, private letters meant for specific eyes only, and so much more.
The Other Side of Night is a mystery in the sense that life is a mystery. Sure, there is a crime to be solved, but what really matters is the metaphysical quandaries that surround the core. It will be a rare reader who can get to the end without some type of deep emotional reaction – perhaps wonder, sadness, confusion, love, delight, awe, empathy, envy, or fear. More than likely, it will be a combination of some or all these core emotions and countless ephemeral asides as well. It’s a mystery; it’s a love story; it’s a tragedy; it’s a thriller, an adventure, and a quest. It is all of that and none of that.
Make no mistake, The Other Side of Night is a book that is meant to heal on whatever level you need healing. A thought-provoking meditation on existence that resonates in the reader’s mind long after the final pages are turned. In a true feat of storytelling magic, the slowly unfolding story must be consumed as quickly as possible, almost as though the answers will be out-of-reach if one doesn’t get there fast enough. But perhaps it is in the seeking of answers where we all get it wrong. Who’s to say?
Easily the most unexpected book of the year, Adam Hamdy’s The Other Side of Night is unforgettable – and it is more than feasible such a statement, devoid of specifics, is all the recommendation that is needed.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.