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Publisher's Summary

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

What listeners say about The Kept

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A Beautiful, Bitter Pill

*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.

13 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

tragic story, not to be missed

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.

9 people found this helpful

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Thrilling, dark, wild!

I could not stop listening to this train wreck in waiting. 1897 - The book begins with Elspeth, a traveling midwife, walking up to her desolate, icy house of despair. I had a bias approaching this story, wondering how this could get interesting but within 5 minutes the author lays it down. The action does not stop throughout. The background story is told in hazy blips from Elspeth and the 12 yr old son Caleb, Both are main characters from vastly different inner worlds, coming together for their own reasons to rectify an act of horrible violence and forced into an unknown future. Caleb is at first terrified, yet his strength and resolve build as Elspeth urges him on in a call to action. Undaunted, he rejects the choice to stay put in his misery in familiar but bleak surroundings. He and his mother abandon the remote family farm, the only home he's ever known, and his beloved farm animals in search of 3 ruthless killers. The evil he witnesses defies logic but he knows he must go even if it means he will not survive. Elspeth is the keeper of secrets that threaten to dismantle his entire life. She is the only caretaker he has and their bonds are immeasurable, but it appears he may be caught in a deadly illusion. Somehow he keeps his wits about him and with steely resolved circumvents urban obstacles, thieves, prying eyes, and starvation, Suspense and logic build to a thrilling close as Elspeth and Caleb race fully armed toward their destiny.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Suspenseful

Interesting story, kept my attention. Could have left out all the gay references and still been good.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Ending STUNK!!

Good story line, kept me interested, really liked Caleb! Elsbeth was an interesting character, sometimes I loved her sometimes I hated her. Absolutely did not like the ending, but I do like things buttoned up at the end sooo......

2 people found this helpful

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Great book

Story Kept my attention all the way through. Wonderfully written and having it read this way was delightful..

1 person found this helpful

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Very depressing story

Very depressing . I kept listening to find out what would happen and it was just too sad. Not recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Very slow fir me

There were times when the story dragged in with excessive descriptions. I would have like to see some of the characters developed some more. Not a fan of the end

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Wake me up when it’s over

Someone should pay me for listening to this one. I made it over half way before I just had to turn it off. Boring story with monotone narrator. Make it stop.

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Could not stop listening

I know it sounds cliche, but I really could not stop listening to this book! Well, written. Brilliantly narrated. Will definitely listen to this more than once.