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Publisher's Summary

A singularly compelling debut novel about a desert where people go to escape their pasts and a truck driver who finds himself at risk when he falls in love with a mysterious woman.

Ben Jones lives a quiet, hardscrabble life, working as a trucker on Route 117, a little-traveled road in a remote region of the Utah desert that serves as a haven for fugitives and others looking to hide from the world. For many of the desert's inhabitants, Ben's visits are their only contact with the outside world, and the only landmark worth noting is a once-famous roadside diner that hasn't opened in years.

Ben's routine is turned upside down when he stumbles across a beautiful woman named Claire playing a cello in an abandoned housing development. He can tell that she's fleeing something in her past - a dark secret that pushed her to the end of the Earth - but despite his better judgment he is inexorably drawn to her.

As Ben and Claire fall in love, specters from her past begin to resurface, with serious and life-threatening consequences not only for them both but for others who have made this desert their sanctuary. Dangerous men come looking for her, and as they turn Route 117 upside down in their search, the long-buried secrets of those who've laid claim to this desert come to light, bringing Ben and the other locals into deadly conflict with Claire's pursuers. Ultimately the answers they all seek are connected to the desert's greatest mystery: What really happened all those years ago at the never-open desert diner?

In this unforgettable story of love and loss, Ben learns the enduring truth that some violent crimes renew themselves across generations. At turns funny, heartbreaking, and thrilling, The Never-Open Desert Diner powerfully evokes an unforgettable setting and introduces listeners to a cast of characters who will linger long after the last words.

©2016 James Anderson (P)2016 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"High, dry and severely beautiful.... Anderson is one fine storyteller." (Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review)
"James Anderson's first novel works on elements of mirage - a mystery novel with literary shimmers. In the end it is all there, apparent in the high heat of the desert: a great story, well-told, funny, daring, smart and deeply affecting." (Colum McCann, National Book Award-winning author of Let the Great World Spin)
"James Anderson has written a striking debut novel - lyrical, whimsical, atmospheric and skillfully rendered." (CJ Box, New York Times best-selling author of Badlands)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Sherri
  • Guildford, Australia
  • 04-16-16

The desert drags you in

If, like me you enjoy books where the landscape is a main character, line up for this one. The story of Ben Jones unfolds gradually, the action happening on the long desert highway stealthily takes hold and the narrator is masterful. But it's the desert that holds you in its grip from start to end. It's all about the light. Very satisfying read.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Haunting story

Highly recommend this story. Great characters, well developed. They haunt you well after you finish the book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

great narrator

loved this story and the narrator was perfect. Much better narrator than LullabyRoad. The story takes you away and when it ends, you will miss it.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Fay
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • 05-14-18

Too Depressing by Half

I'm not quite sure I got sucked into this one, but I was intrigues with the idea of the desert as a character in the book, and I guess it sort of was, but in the end the whole thing was sort of a downer.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Don't waste a credit

(3) strikes against this audiobook (1) the narrator / Kirby Heybourne has a flat tone in his reading that drains the energy out of the prose (2) preposterous plot ! Who cares about a million dollar cello ? (3) too many subplots, none of them very compelling (Ben is about to lose the lease on his truck, why is Claire hiding out from her soon-to-be ex-husband ). Honestly, this wasn't very good. I expected more but this didn't deliever.

4 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Metaltoe
  • 08-08-16

Boring.

I read a lot of good reviews and I really wanted to enjoy this book. But it wasn't like I imagined. It was quite atmospheric and with a few amusing characters here and there. But just really dull! I stuck with it for 3 sessions of an hour each time and honestly, nothing happened at all to keep my attention.. I couldn't get interested. In fact, I dozed off each time and kept having to run it back. And the narrator doesn't help with his slow reading. I speeded it up to 1.25 and that improved it, but not enough. Very disappointed. I gave it up, I'm afraid.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful