Veteran Author’s New Novel is Marriage of Mystery and Love Story

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Night and Its Longings by Philip Ciofarri

What’s It About?

Jake Garrett, a writer living in New York’s Greenwich Village, is paid a surprising late-night visit from the husband whose wife, Vera, Jake had an affair with ten years earlier.

Philip Ciofarri’s newest novel Night and Its Longings unpacks a vivid love affair within the intriguing mystery of a wife who goes missing and whose long-ago lover is tapped by her desperate husband to help find her. A fast-paced plot, juxtaposed with the long-ago lover’s emotional search for answers beyond the missing woman, makes for a high-concept read from its heartfelt start to its heart-stopping climax.

The novel takes place in late June 1995 and moves from the gritty bars of New York City to the remote beaches of South Carolina. Vera Davison, recovering from last year’s death of her nine-year-old son Devon, goes missing one night from a park in New York City. Her former lover Jake Garrett learns of her disappearance when her disconcerted husband Norm shows up after midnight at Jake’s apartment door, “looking like a man enduring the force of an avalanche.” With specifics to suggest Vera hasn’t forgotten Jake in the ten years since their affair, Norm convinces Jake to lead the search. 

As a Greenwich Village writer focused on the emotional underpinnings of the crime novels he writes, Jake doesn’t take long to reconnect with his feelings for Vera. “She’s a distant memory. A stranger. Who was I kidding? She was the dead center of my sorrow.” He met the married Vera at a soup kitchen at Church of the Apostles, Upper East Side and started the affair under Norm’s passive nose. Jake remembers her as “the artist looking for her truth in a world spilling over with promise…”and realizes “that one way or another I’d been trying to reach her all my life.”

Jake’s sorrow isn’t helped by what he calls “…my own fragile standing in this world. Never had I held myself in high regard, but night undermined what little confidence I’d managed to salvage from the wreckage.” As he sets his life aside to find her he realizes how little of a life he has. His writing comes hard and his eighteen-month relationship with a pop revival singer—who often shows up in a crooked wig and a bad costume—consists of little more than random two a.m. consolatory pie-and-coffee meetings at the Waverly diner on Sixth. “How easy it was, I thought, and the realization sobered me, for a single man like myself to leave his life behind.” 

In seeking out the few friends he and Vera had in common Jake unearths a narcotics ring that operates out of the no-name bar in Alphabet City, one of the last places Vera was seen. When a .38-caliber pistol falls into his hands he only hesitates a moment before grabbing it up as the search intensifies. His pain does too, as he processes his feelings for Vera. 

“It was love: unwavering, from the heart.

There you go again, justifying your failures, your sins.

Love supersedes morality.

So you say.

Love justifies itself

So you’d like to believe.”

While Jake’s internal conversation can be bleak, his essence reads kind and moral. He gives others the benefit of the doubt, even Norm at his meanest. And while the story is told from Jake’s third-person-close point-of-view, the plot unfolds details of similar struggles that engulf Vera and Norm, the other two main characters. The dialogue is exciting for its pithiness, and comic elements temper the night longings. As the story grinds to an intense climax, a South Carolina hotel clerk gets so caught up with nefarious-looking visitors showing up in dark Cadillacs and trench coats that he takes on his own undercover filming, to an amusing end. 

The book’s lyrical title sets a thought-provoking tone that never strays far from the “thin line…between hope and despair.” Its brief prologue and epilogue contain the haunting question that confounds the story’s protagonist: “What do we do with the night?” Thanks to Jake, the story keeps coming back to self. His rich interiority is marked not just by regrets and fears but by nostalgic reflections and hopeful desires. While he struggles to find meaning in his life, he thinks he knows what it looks like and what gets in the way.  “The past has everything to do with this present moment. The past is the present by another name. In the hard beating of my heart, I could sense—despite my resistance—the truth of that.” And this. “It’s what we have in the moment that counts. There’s no way to know what we’ll have in the end.” 

An absorbing read that satisfies on several levels, Night and Its Longings is timeless noir-style fiction with a clear-eyed look at the existential questions of what we are made for and with whom we are meant to share our lives.

 

Author:

Philip Cioffari is the author of the novels THE BRONX KILL; DARK ROAD, DEAD END; CATHOLIC BOYS; JESUSVILLE; IF ANYONE ASKS, SAY I DIED FROM THE HEARTBREAKING BLUES; and the story collection, A HISTORY OF THINGS LOST OR BROKEN, which won the Tartt First Fiction Prize, and the D. H. Lawrence award for fiction. His stories have been published widely in commercial and literary magazines and anthologies, including North American Review, Playboy, Michigan Quarterly Review, Northwest Review, Florida Fiction, and Southern Humanities Review. He has written and directed for Off and Off-Off Broadway. His Indie feature film, which he wrote and directed, LOVE IN THE AGE OF DION, has won numerous awards, including Best Feature Film at the Long Island Int’l Film Expo, and Best Director at the NY Independent Film & Video Festival. He was a Professor of English, and Director of the Performing and Literary Arts Honors Program, at William Paterson University. He now teaches for Gotham Writers in New York City. http://www.philipcioffari.com

Publish Date: 3/26/2024

Author: Philip Ciofarri

Page Count: 234 pages

Publisher: Livingston Press

ISBN: 9781604893748



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