Summary: Adele is a high school student with an older boyfriend named Ralphie, an alcoholic father named Joe and a mother named Rita that she despises. As bitter as Adele is and as much as she wants to be rid of them at times, all of their lives are intertwined with each other. Being a family and living in their community isn’t easy, but when things are at their toughest, Adele’s family proves again and again that they have the strength to band together and face whatever arises.
Number of Pages: 218
Age Range: 17-18
Review: At first, I didn’t like Nights Below Station Street by David Adams Richards because it made me uncomfortable and I couldn’t get into it. I was plunged into a chaotic household where there was so much anger and resentment that it was disorienting. But I fell in love with Adele, Joe, Rita and Ralphie – Richards made me care about them and brought them to life through his writing.
And I began to see the pain beneath their actions. Joe with his willingness to trust others without reserve and his crippling insecurity that leads him to drink. Adele with her fits of anger that hide the vulnerability she feels as a result of how much she really cares for and loves her family. Rita, who seems to have settled for Joe but still loves him, though she hasn’t always been faithful. And Ralphie, who can’t believe Adele would be with him in some ways, but also knows that they fit together.
I wasn’t expecting to end up loving the book and the characters, but I did. It’s a non-linear story that jumps from character to character without apparent rhyme or reason. Richards writes about a very dysfunctional group of people in Nights Below Station Street, and he doesn’t provide any easy answers, but the portrait he paints is heart-rending with its emotional honesty and the ending is a surprise to all.
This book is for older teen readers and adults, and probably best suited for a Canadian literature course because of its outstanding quality.
“Everyone wants to change the world; but no one will change themselves.” – quote from Leo Tolstoy from Nights Below Station Street by David Adams Richards
“Although Ralphie already believed that everything in the world, everyone and everything, happened exactly the way that it was supposed to, and that once something did happen, no matter how preposterous it was at first, it was meant to happen and was therefore absolutely natural, he still felt that Adele and he only became boyfriend and girlfriend because no one else seemed to think very much of them. Neither of them knew very much about how to act with these other more special and gifted people – gifted in the way people who assume they are doing all the right things – that is, socially gifted. So he and Adele ended up together.” from Nights Below Station Street by David Adams Richards, page 46
“However, because Adele had been born poor all of her life she had seen more of life by the age of sixteen than a lot of these people – or at least a lot of life some people coming from university had taken courses on and pretended to be dismayed about. It was becoming a cultural thing to be dismayed at the right times about the right things. Adele had seen and heard more of all the thing that were becoming sanctioned as the concerns of the day, but she always measured herself against these people, and always found herself lacking.” – from Nights Below Station Street by David Adams Richards, page 48
“At her young age, she did not understand that criticism of your own in Canada was often considered fashionable expertise. It was her and Joe’s favourite game – one which she still watched every Saturday night – she could never understand the criticisms that were levelled against it. Adele told Ralphie that she had to stay in the bathroom throwing up during much of the games, and when the Canadians lost a game she would got about the house like a ghost refusing to eat, and prayed, her lips moving slowly: ‘Oh God – let Pete Mahovlich get a goal.'” – Adele from Nights Below Station Street by David Adams Richards, page 79
“Like all teenagers, she believed her parents had tremendous faults. All of these faults were visible to her, yet now that she had told them all about them, she looked upon them in a new light, as being inoffensive, and as if she, in the telling of these stories, had taken on responsibility for some of the very mistakes she bragged about her parents committing.” – from Nights Below Station Street by David Adams Richards, page 143