I'm a stay-at-home mother of two. Despite the insanity of my life, I always find time to read...it is my outlet and my passion. I also love to cook and appreciate a good glass (or bottle) of wine. If you would like to contact me, my e-mail is email@example.com.
Right after reading Jenny's glowing review of debut novel "Bent Road", I had the distinct pleasure (along with Jenny and Heather) of meeting the author Lori Roy at the UCF Book Festival. When Lori mentioned she actively participated in book club chats, Heather and I exchanged a glance. We had the same idea...convince Books, Babes and Bordeaux to read this book and schedule another call-in!
Synopsis: It has been twenty years since Arthur Scott lived on Bent Road in Kansas. He swore he would leave and never return after the death of his older sister Eve, but after black boys begin calling his teenage daughter in Detroit, he packs up his wife Celia and his three kids (Elaine - 18, Daniel - 14, Evie - 9) and heads south. They soon settle down near Arthur's mother Seena, Arthur's sister Ruth and brother-in-law Ray, all strangers to Celia and the kids. Celia just wants to be a good wife and make the transition as easy as possible, but things start to fall apart soon after arriving.
Out of the gate, Celia senses an undercurrent of secrets kept hidden surrounding Eve's death. It also becomes evident that all is not well with Ruth and Ray's marriage. Then a young girl about Evie's age disappears, and the entire community casts their eyes to Ray, who was suspected of killing Eve years ago. The kids struggle to make new friends, Daniel begins to have anger issues, and Evie obsesses over her dead namesake. As recent and ancient secrets are revealed, Celia questions whether her family will be able to survive the repercussions.
My thoughts: I was very torn with this book. It was definitely a character-driven story, with the location playing a very important role in the atmosphere. Tumbleweeds, barren farmland, tormented souls, dangerous secrets, dead kids. This was seriously dark stuff. But the problem I had was that I didn't like the characters at all. Every dysfunctional personality trait was present here, down to little Evie who was only 9. I'm really not sure I can list all the issues we witnessed in this book, but they all got under my skin.
But akin to gawking at an auto accident on the highway, I couldn't stop digging into these peoples' lives. My heart broke for Daniel, who wanted to please his father and act like a man. I wanted to shake Celia, and tell her not to take crap off her mother-in-law. I was inclined to plug my ears every time Evie rattled on about her namesake aunt coming back home and then put on her old dresses and wore them to school. I had a visceral reaction to these damaged people, so I know that Roy has done her job in the character development department.
A word about the audio production: The reader for this book was Marguerite Gavin, a new voice for me. Truthfully, folks, I would never listen to another book read by her, a sentiment shared by a couple of my friends who also listened to this audio for book club. This is the perfect reason why an author should be involved in the narrator casting. I was forced to separate myself from the reader early on, and focus on the prose. It could have ruined the book had I not. My best advice would be to read the print version.
From the Books, Babes and Bordeaux: We were lucky enough to have Lori visit us via Skype at our book club. Because of technical difficulties, we did have to turn to a conference call on a telephone, but we enjoyed learning about her process of developing the plot, and she answered questions that some of us had on character motivations and such. Lori also chatted about her favorite books (from Steinbeck to Hemingway to Lionel Shriver), and about her new endeavor set in Detroit in the '50's. No word on when she will be finished, but she promised to let us know!
Several in our group did not finish the book for various reasons (one is pregnant and was distracted by the dark nature of the plot, a couple of others struggled with the audio narrator) but overall the group appreciated the wild and dark characterization and the twists in the story. We even ate fried chicken and pie in honor of the home-cooked meals consumed in the story. We did all agree that after the last few months, we are due for a torrid beach novel over the summer!