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Monday, March 10, 2014

Reservation Road: A Novel

I read the follow-up to John Burnham Schwartz's Reservation Road a while back, so I figured it was time to pick up the original.

One summer night, Ethan and his family stop at a gas station near home for a quick break. His son, Josh, is hit while playing in the middle of the road and dies that night. The driver doesn't stop. Ethan is heartbroken and desperately seeks revenge if only he can find his son's killer. Dwight, who was driving the car that hit Josh, lives in despair over what happened that night he was racing to get his own son back to his mother's house. The lives of these two men are on a collision course toward each other and unstable and emotional outcome.

I am a big fan of Schwartz and his heart-wrenching, honest, and painful style of writing. He has this way of sticking a knife into your gut, and just when you think you can live with the pain, he twists it ever so slightly to make you feel unhinged again. So yeah, that was what reading this book felt like.

Dwight and Ethan are both written in first person and are on parallel paths, both fathers in the same town with sons the same age. It even turns out Ethan's daughter takes music lessons from Dwight's ex-wife. The intertwined lives of these characters makes the realization of Dwight's secret all the more painful. Never do these ties seem contrived; rather, they feel very plausible in small-town New England and in a world where people don't lock their doors and know their neighbors by first name.

This book was an emotional roller coaster that I was more than happy to ride with arms in the air. Schwartz's writing grabs you by the lapels and yells in your face; it makes you question what is right and what is wrong when you thought you knew all along. While I may not know what happens in the long run with these men and their families (ignoring that fact that I read Northwest Corner and just focusing on the confines of this book), I do know that the pain of losing a child and that of unknowingly taking someone else's life is indescribable. Schwartz captures this in mere words.

Kindle version on the left, hard copy on the right.

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