58 pages 1 hour read

Kristin Hannah

Night Road

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2011

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Summary and Study Guide


Best-selling author Kristin Hannah’s novel Night Road (2011) teaches readers about The Influence of Loss and the power of forgiveness. Hannah is the author of over 20 novels, the most notable of which are The Great Alone (2017), The Four Winds (2021), and The Nightingale (2015) which spent 20 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

This guide refers to the 2011 St. Martin’s/Griffin paperback edition of the text.

Content Warning: This novel and study guide discuss child abuse and drug addiction.

Plot Summary

In the year 2000, Lexi Baill leaves Southern California for Port George, Washington, after a long and traumatic experience in the foster care system. She moves in with her great aunt, Eva, and attends Pine Island High School, where she meets the Farradays. The mother, Jude Farraday, insists on being present in every aspect of the lives of her twins, Mia and Zach. However, as they enter high school, Jude knows that her days of protecting and helping her children are rapidly ending. Lexi and Mia become fast friends on their first day of high school, yet Mia’s brother, Zach, seems to dislike Lexi. Over time, however, Lexi learns that Zach loves her, but their situation is complicated because they both want to protect Mia.

Lexi, Mia, and Zach become high school seniors, and Jude desperately tries to help them get into prestigious colleges. However, the teenagers want more independence and start attending parties and drinking. At the Homecoming dance, Zach and Lexi finally bring their feelings for each other into the open and start dating. They eventually tell Mia about their relationship, and while Mia feels hurt that they lied to her, she wants her brother and friend to be happy. She accepts the situation and encourages their parents, Jude and Miles, to do the same. The teenagers enjoy their senior year despite the stress of applying to colleges. USC accepts Mia and Zach, but Lexi must attend junior college because she doesn’t have the money or scholarships to attend a four-year school. By the end of their senior year, Zach decides to stay in Seattle with Lexi, and Mia decides to do the same. Jude and Miles are dismayed at their children’s decision but have little power to do anything about it. A few days before graduation, Zach, Mia, and Lexi attend a party and get drunk. Jude appointed Zach as the designated driver, but Lexi drives home because he can barely stand. On Night Road, Lexi hits a tree. Mia, who isn’t wearing her seatbelt, is thrown from the car and dies from her injuries at the hospital.

After Mia’s death, Jude becomes despondent and settles into a deep, reclusive sadness lasting for years. Zach feels great remorse, knowing that he drank when he promised to be the designated driver. Lexi pleads guilty to DUI vehicular homicide and assault, wanting to go to prison to atone for her mistake. While in prison, Lexi discovers that she is pregnant, and Zach decides to come home from USC—where he attends college in Mia’s memory—to take care of his daughter, Grace Mia Farraday. When Grace is born, Lexi gives Zach full custody because she knows that she will not be a good mother and doesn’t want her daughter to grow up with the trauma that Lexi did with her own mother. Meanwhile, Jude no longer cares about anything, including her son, husband, and granddaughter. She won’t acknowledge her feelings about Mia’s death and only wants justice for her daughter instead of forgiving herself, Zach, and Lexi for their part in the accident.

When Lexi leaves prison after over five years, she decides that she wants joint custody of Grace. This decision enrages Jude, who wants to fight Lexi’s petition. However, Lexi pleads with Jude to let her be a part of her daughter’s life, telling Jude that Mia would agree and be on Lexi’s side. This statement forces Jude to face her grief and the person she has turned into. Jude takes steps to heal her relationship with her mother, Grace, Miles, and Zach. She also begins to forgive herself, Lexi, and Zach and remembers how much she cares about Lexi. Jude knows that Zach and Lexi still love each other, so she encourages her son to tell Lexi how he feels and to remind Lexi that she’s part of their family. Zach and Lexi heal their relationship and go home together to be a family. At the same time, Jude finally visits Mia’s grave for the first time since her death.