“A major accomplishment...Howard is a writer to watch.”—Washington Times
Over the years, Del has refused to send him bus fare, changed her phone number, and asked him not to come home. Now her manic-depressive son, Mark, needs
a lifeline again, and she must decide how much more she's willing to give.
Through the four seasons, Night Navigation
takes us into the dizzying world of the addict and his mother, one filled with dealers, boot-camp rehabs,
and Rumi-quoting sponsors. During one long dark year, through relapse, missteps, and despair, a mother and son fitfully steer toward the first sign of
spring: the unfailing return of the horseshoe crabs.
Hopeful and unflinching, this novel powerfully navigates the troubling legacy of a family and the paradoxes of a world gone mad, adding new depth to our
understanding of illness, addiction, and the redemptive power of family.
“A gritty, realistic, powerful portrayal of the complexities of addiction
and the strain it puts on a family.”—Booklist
LISTEN: Ginnah Howard interviewed
, Off the Page
with Bill Jaker
WSKG Public Radio (Binghamton, NY), first aired 5/25/09
About Ginnah Howard
I came to writing by chance in my late forties. The New York
State English Bureau began to press all teachers to actively write with their students: How could you teach something that you didn't do yourself? I
remember writing my first short story as part of an assignment I'd given one of my senior classes. After a weekend of struggling to put into fictional
scenes the experience of seeing a boy have an epileptic seizure on the playground when I was a sixth grader, I said to my class, “Wow, writing a
story is hard, isn't it?” I was further encouraged by having a poet conduct a workshop in my class for a few days that same year. He insisted I
write along with the group. I wrote a love poem about my fear of walking along the rocks, the sheer drop to the sea, at Montauk Point.
The poet wrote, “You make it new!” across the top of my paper. That was my beginning.
I was born in 1939 in Charleston, West Virginia. A longtime thumb-sucker and a lover of books. My favorites were usually about English orphans or a girl
of the Limberlost, characters wronged by people I loathed. At some point when I was a child, I started to leave neighborhood play behind and go up to my
room to be by myself. There was one particular game I liked. I drew the interior of a house. I added broken windows and sagging furniture. Next I drew
the people, their hair uncombed, their clothes torn. A scrawny cat and a bony dog. Then I pretended some good fortune had come to this poor family. I
turned the paper over and traced the outlines from the other side, only this time I made the roof beam straight. I put ruffled curtains on the windows a
nd logs burning in the fireplace. I repaired the popping bedsprings. The mother's apron became clean; the daughter's hair, curly. I played this game
many afternoons, sitting on my bed in the attic. For me writing fiction is very much like that childhood experience. In my writing I am both the
one making the house and the characters being transformed.
I grew up under the care of a strong mother, also a lover of books, a person who always encouraged me. The kind of woman who was able to run the night
infirmary on the seventeenth floor in one of Pratt's dormitories after undergoing some failed knee surgery, dressed in a bright caftan, which covered a
body cast that ran from below her breast down her left leg to her toes. A woman who, when I became pregnant, encouraged me not to drop out of graduate
school, with the advice that I might have to work one day. A “one day” that began almost immediately and lasted for twenty-seven years of
teaching high school English, a job I graduated from in 1995, which left me more time to put words on the page. To mull, to enter the fictional world,
is especially helpful in writing a novel. It's a long trip, and if the bus is a local, stopping twenty times a day, one loses the blurry belief that
there's a final destination.
GINNAH HOWARD is a veteran English teacher, whose work has appeared in the Portland Review,
Permafrost, and A Room of One's Own, and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. This is her first novel.
Author photograph by Rose Mackiewicz
Ginnah Howard also blogs at Intervene, an online community of parents concerned about their teens'
alcohol and drug use.