Skip to main content

The Night Always Comes

Review

The Night Always Comes

In his prior books, Willy Vlautin has made it a priority to shed light on the people whose stories don’t often get told --- the economically disadvantaged, the despondent, the vulnerable. In his latest effort, THE NIGHT ALWAYS COMES, he continues with these themes, in a spare but wrenching novel that traces the rapid collapse of one young woman’s dream over the course of just two days and nights.

I felt the perpetual fatigue of Vlautin’s protagonist, Lynette, just by reading her daily routine. She rises each day well before dawn to care for her developmentally disabled brother, Kenny, who accompanies her to her job at a local bakery. After her shift, she brings him along to the accounting class she’s barely passing at a community college. She then returns him to the home they share with their mother before heading out again for an evening bartending shift, followed by a night of the kind of work she doesn’t want to tell her mom about. Lynette is working herself to the bone for the last two years because her family’s longtime landlord wants to get out of the business. He’s willing to sell the house to Lynette and her mom at a sizeable discount, and for much less than they could get a house anywhere else in rapidly gentrifying Portland, Oregon.

"Reading THE NIGHT ALWAYS COMES feels a bit like watching a video of a reckless driver. You know the crash is probably coming, but not when or how, and you desperately don’t want to watch but can’t stop yourself from doing so."

Lynette’s grueling schedule (including the sex work she performs on the side) yields enough savings for a down payment, but she has bad credit, so she’s relying on her mom to get a loan for the balance. On this particular night, when Lynette returns home, she discovers that her mom has decided to spend her money on a brand-new car rather than move forward on the mortgage that she has been dreaming about and working toward for months. She needs to act quickly if she’s going to try to increase her down payment and get the loan amount down to something that they still might be able to afford. What happens next is a chain reaction that sends Lynette careening into the paths of some of Portland’s less savory characters --- and into a collision course with her former life and the memories she wishes she could forget.

Reading THE NIGHT ALWAYS COMES feels a bit like watching a video of a reckless driver. You know the crash is probably coming, but not when or how, and you desperately don’t want to watch yet you can’t stop yourself from doing so. As Lynette goes further into darkness, she is forced to confront the darkest moments of her past, those that continue to affect her present-day relationships, including the deceptively complicated one she has with her mother.

Lynette and her mother are vividly and perceptively drawn, despite being in a relatively slim novel, and readers will be impressed by the amount of nuance with which Vlautin infuses their relationship. The secondary characters are not drawn with as much depth, but as a group, they help create a dark tapestry for the drama playing out in Lynette’s life. And even though Lynette’s story is an individual one, it sheds light on the plight of millions more like hers: stories of people who feel like they’re being left out of an economy that works so effortlessly for others.

THE NIGHT ALWAYS COMES is both intimately heartbreaking and cautiously hopeful, as Lynette quickly adapts to pursue a new dream, one that may or may not be as elusive as the rapidly fading American dream of homeownership.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on April 30, 2021

The Night Always Comes
by Willy Vlautin

  • Publication Date: April 6, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0063035081
  • ISBN-13: 9780063035089