In the winter of 1897, Elspeth Howell treks across miles of snow and ice to the isolated farmstead in upstate New York where she and her husband have raised their five children. Her midwife's salary is tucked into the toes of her boots, and her pack is full of gifts for her family. But as she crests the final hill, and sees her darkened house and a smokeless chimney, immediately she knows that an unthinkable crime has destroyed the life she so carefully built.
Her lone comfort is her twelve-year-old son, Caleb, who joins her in mourning the tragedy and planning its reprisal. Their long journey leads them to a rough-hewn lake town, defined by the violence both of its landscape and of its inhabitants. There Caleb is forced into a brutal adulthood, as he slowly discovers truths about his family he never suspected, and Elspeth must confront the terrible urges and unceasing temptations that have haunted her for years. Throughout it all, the love between mother and son serves as the only shield against a merciless world.
A scorching portrait of guilt and lost innocence, atonement and retribution, resilience and sacrifice, pregnant obsession and primal adolescence, The Kept is told with deep compassion and startling originality, and introduces James Scott as a major new literary voice.
©2014 James Scott (P)2014 HarperCollinsPublishers
*possible ending spoiler*
I hesitated to buy this one after reading the Amazon reviews about how dark it is. Many compared the writing to that of Cormac McCarthy, one of my favorite authors. That's why I had to try it. After listening to it, I agree that there are similarities. This book is beautifully written, the settings so realistic that you feel like you are there. The only problem is, you don't want to be there. Not at the beginning, the middle, nor the end. What makes this book different from one of McCarthy's is that there is no humor, and not even a glimmer of hope for redemption. No, I take that back. There was a glimmer, but it was ruthlessly ground out, as it should have been, in this book's unflinchingly dismal and brutal world. I was so torn between how much I admired the writing and how depressed it made me to listen to it, that I couldn't decide whether to give it five stars or one. So I gave it three. I still haven't decided if I'm glad I bought it or not. When my endorphin levels recover, I may actually recommend it.
i like to read. i like to listen.
this is a really really stark but beautifully written novel. it's so sad...full of winter and death and really nothing hopeful to cling to. but gosh if it wasn't a great book.
its the story of a mother and son out to avenge the deaths of their murdered family. at the start, their relationship is tepid at best...but this was not a novel of family ties binding together in the face of adversity. the relationship between Elspeth and Caleb was as sad and cold and stark as the wintery scenery...and it remained so through most of the book. the secrets that they both keep throughout the novel are detrimental to their relationship and their lives. and they never come to understand the other's emotional needs enough to help the other through. it's a painful story to read...because there is really no redemption. even if they succeed in getting revenge...you know their lives will never be redeemed.
kate udall reads this book with perfection.
tragedy oozes from every sentence in this novel...in the sadness and emotion evident in every choice that both main characters make. it's a moving desperate story that is so full of violence it's sometimes shocking in it's outright nature, but so brings you into the minds and hearts of these two characters...it's a haunting story not to be missed.
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