The Night Shift by Natalka Burian (329 pages)
Time travel across New York with the latest novel from Natalka Burian, The Night Shift
The Night Shift attracted me for a few reasons. Firstly, it takes place in New York, where I currently live, and I’m always up for some location spotting. Secondly, I wanted something that took me into the realms of fantasy and away from the routine humdrum of work. And lastly, but by no means least, I was intrigued by the author Natalka Burian, co-founder of nonprofit organization The Freya Project, which uses storytelling to support community-based activism and the work of women and nonbinary writers. Not only does Natalka write and promote women and nonbinary writers, but she is also co-owner of two bars in Brooklyn–Elsa and Ramona–that I can’t wait to check out. I’m always inspired and in awe of strong, successful women, especially those who habitually lift other women.
As I read, I did become pretty fond of the main character, Jean. She worked two jobs–as both a bartender and a baker–to make ends meet after leaving her steady 9-5 job. I have to admit that it had me thinking about giving up the routine of my day job and doing something exciting and transient. There was a lot of scene-setting around Jean’s life and work, and it took quite some time to get to the shortcuts( secret passageways that allow you to ride through time and appear in a different part of the city), that allowed her to travel from her night shift at the bar to her early-morning bakery job. If you like time travel and fantasy, you may find the book’s opening slightly slow and detailed, but I’d suggest persevering. She’s introduced to the shortcuts by Iggy, a co-worker at the bar. Shortly after, however, he disappears. Not even his close friends know where he went, and Jean turns investigator and begins exploring the shortcuts to save him. This is when the story became more interesting, and I started to get into it.
I love the idea of NYC having secret shortcuts–how wonderful would it be if that were true? No more riding the subway to get to Macy’s! An unexpected twist sees Jean’s ex-employer, Dr. Goldstein, being instrumental in opening the very first shortcut. We discover more about the history of her work while Jean tries to track down Iggy, and more of her family’s past unfolds in the following pages.
The Bottom Line: 3.5/5 stars
The Night Shift isn’t in my usual genre, which is likely influencing my rating. I have to admit that I struggled to get into this book. It was maybe too far from my preferred genres since I’ve never really delved into fantasy or sci-fi. I wasn’t engaged and felt my mind wandering as I read the first few chapters, needing to go back and reread certain parts. I made a pact with myself that I’ll stop reading a book if I don’t feel invested in the characters or the story by page 100. The Night Shift was almost one of the few books that fell afoul of that rule. As with the opening, I struggled to understand the conclusion and felt that the story ended rather abruptly. I had to read back a couple of times to figure it out, and I would have loved for an extended ending with more time spent on laying out the conclusion.
Why not check it out and make up your own mind? If you like her style you could also read Daughters of the Wild or Welcome to the Sipstream, two other novels by Natalka. If cocktails are more you thing, then take a look at her other book, A Woman’s Drink: Bold Recipes for Bold Women, which celebrates the cocktail culture and shares 50 cocktail recipes suited to any occasion.
With 30 years of general management experience in the global insurance industry and having lived in 4 countries, Jacqui now spends her time between London and New York where she continues to pursue her passion for writing, food, books and travel.
A Reiki practitioner, yogi and huge animal advocate, her home isn’t complete without a furbaby or three. In addition to being a BooknBrunch contributor, she writes for industry publications.
Favourite book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Favourite brunch dish: avocado toast with tomato and chilli