I feel like I've read quite a few books like this the last few years: family psychodramas plus a mystery of the Long-Buried Secret type. None of them have been able to touch this one. This was a first novel, which makes it even more of an accomplishment. Roy thanks Dennis Lehane in her Acknowledgments and he does a jacket blurb; apparently he's a mentor/teacher of sorts to her, and it's clear why. While their styles are entirely dissimilar, she shares his gift for characterization, which is no faint praise. With spare detail, she gives you an amazing sense of character; I could picture each family member, understand their motives and thoughts and feelings, and most importantly, believe in them. She was especially evocative when writing about the children in the story; lonely and strange Evie, and anguished and confused Daniel. Layers peel away and something is revealed without the reader realizing it's even happening.
The plot involves the Scott family, mom Celia, dad Arthur and their three children, Elaine, Daniel, and Evie. They move to farmland Kansas from inner city Detroit in the late 60's to flee the violence and racial turmoil. Arthur is returning to his hometown and extended family after a 20-year absence dating from the murder of his sister, Eve. We meet his harridan of a mother, his sweet sister and drunken lout brother-in-law, and various townspeople. Shortly after their move back, a neighbor's very young daughter disappears. The little girl looks so much like Eve did at her age...
The writing is vivid, the story haunting and memorable. It played like a movie in my head and I hope someone does buy the movie rights (Kate Winslet as Celia?). I can't wait to see what Roy writes after this exceptional work.
A strange, dark book with sad turns, family secrets, and unanswered questions. So much sadness for one small family.
All the way through reading Bent Road, I kept thinking, "This is such a weird little book." Certainly, allowing blame to fall on the wrong person and failing to honestly address horrible family secrets have dire consequences. Lori Roy makes that point in spades. What seemed weird was that, with all the dreadful experiences the Scott family suffers after moving to Kansas, they neither completely fall apart nor fully band together. Celia, who seems pretty attuned to her kids in one sense, isn't even aware that her youngest daughter is friendless at school. I grew up rural Kansas in exactly this time period, and this story bore virtually no resemblance to my small-town experience. Maybe I filtered the book, set in 1967, through the mindset of someone living in the 2000s, but it seemed to me that the way the several characters were drawn would also have made them behave differently than they did. The book is dark, dark, dark, and there's no relief from it.
Something horrible happened when Arthur was only ten, something that marked his family forever. His sister Eve died and Ray Walker is blamed but there is no proof. Now, Arthur and his own family move back to Kansas and slowly truths come out. A very good read.
I would have liked to get the know the characters more. This was an excellent book and I would have enjoyed a view inside of their minds.
This is an excellent book which I recommend wholeheartedly.
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