The Center for Fiction and Bellevue Literary Review were thrilled to celebrate the release of Jayne Anne Phillips’s (Black Tickets, Machine Dreams) latest novel Night Watch, a mesmerizing story about a mother and daughter seeking refuge in the chaotic aftermath of the Civil War at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Phillips, one of the most accomplished novelists of our time, was joined in conversation by BLR editor Danielle Ofri, a practicing physician whose writing appears in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and the Atlantic. The two had a spirited discussion and audience Q&A about the novel’s themes of war, prejudice, and endurance, as well as writing on mental health and trauma.
Presented in partnership with Bellevue Literary Review.
By Jayne Anne Phillips
Published by Knopf Doubleday
In 1874, in the wake of the War, erasure, trauma, and namelessness haunt civilians and veterans, renegades and wanderers, freedmen and runaways. Twelve-year-old ConaLee, the adult in her family for as long as she can remember, finds herself on a buckboard journey with her mother, Eliza, who hasn’t spoken in more than a year. They arrive at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in West Virginia, delivered to the hospital’s entrance by a war veteran who has forced himself into their world. There, far from family, a beloved neighbor, and the mountain home they knew, they try to reclaim their lives.
The omnipresent vagaries of war and race rise to the surface as we learn their story: their flight to the highest mountain ridges of western Virginia; the disappearance of ConaLee’s father, who left for the War and never returned. Meanwhile, in the asylum, they begin to find a new path. ConaLee pretends to be her mother’s maid; Eliza responds slowly to treatment. They get swept up in the life of the facility—the mysterious man they call the Night Watch; the orphan child called Weed; the fearsome woman who runs the kitchen; the remarkable doctor at the head of the institution.
Epic, enthralling, and meticulously crafted, Night Watch is a brilliant portrait of family endurance against all odds, and a stunning chronicle of surviving war and its aftermath.
Jayne Anne Phillips
Jayne Anne Phillips
Jayne Anne Phillips is the author of Black Tickets, Machine Dreams, Fast Lanes, Shelter, MotherKind, Lark and Termite, and Quiet Dell. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Bunting Fellowship, and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. Winner of an Arts and Letters Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she was inducted into the Academy in 2018. A National Book Award finalist, and twice a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, she lives in New York and Boston.
Photo Credit: Elena Seibert
Danielle Ofri MD, PhD is one of the foremost voices in the medical world today. She’s a primary care internist at Bellevue Hospital and clinical professor of medicine at NYU, as well as founder/editor-in-chief of Bellevue Literary Review, and her writing appears in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and the Atlantic, as well as in the Lancet, and NEJM. She’s given several TED talks and performed at the Moth. Ofri is the author of six books about life in medicine; her latest is When We Do Harm: A Doctor Confronts Medical Error.
Photo Credit: Elana Goodridge