Buy This Book: Bent Road by Lori Roy

Part Southern gothic, part family mystery and haunting suspense, Bent Road, Lori Roy’s emotionally evocative, 1960’s era, debut novel takes your breath from the first page and I mean that literally. Painted against the beautiful but often brutal backdrop of rural Kansas, the setting might have been rendered by Norman Rockwell himself, but a Rockwell idyll wouldn’t include the troubling presence of a red pick up truck crawling the road’s curves at the edge of evening. It wouldn’t show a man running, the vapor of his breath trailing after him in the inky dark. But was he really there? It isn’t clear. At least not as clear as the fear on folks’ faces when a child in this remote community goes missing. Celia Scott had qualms about moving with her husband, Arthur, and their three children back to his family’s farm in Kansas even before she left Detroit and learning on their arrival that a child is missing, that there is a possible kidnapper in the area, only serves to deepen her distress. There is mystery enough in her husband’s family. For one, there is the sister whose untimely death Arthur refuses to explain. Celia senses whatever the tragedy was, it caused him to abandon his childhood home. But no one will say. She’s treated to silence. With her white gloves and stylish hats, her city airs, she’s given the feeling that she doesn’t belong. While Celia’s husband and oldest daughter seem to settle comfortably into country life, Celia’s two younger children struggle like Celia to find their way. It is one of the lovely aspects of this novel, the carefully illustrated characters. Each one, complex and fully formed, is real and warm and alive. They are people you would know, people that by the end of the story you feel you do know. You want to spend time with them, to know more about them. They draw you through each page.

And there’s that red truck, too, and the man running, and the suspicion. All the small town rumor and gossip and innuendo. It is an atmosphere unlike anything Celia has ever known. And her children, the two youngest especially, face pressures that are foreign to her. She feels helpless to help them. Her youngest daughter, a little girl the same age as the child who is missing, dresses in her dead aunt’s clothes and wishes she were bigger. Celia’s son eyes his daddy’s rifle in the gun cabinet and wishes for the chance to show he is a man. Celia’s marriage to Arthur is strong, but what happens when that union is subjected to forces outside her control, pressures beyond her understanding? Resentment simmers and along with it is Celia’s determination to fix what is wrong, to make her family work according to the ideal of the day: that iconic Norman Rockwell image. The juxtaposition of this image with the twisting vine of family secrets and lies . . . it’s like the snake in the beautiful garden. And there, just under the surface the red truck is on the prowl, the man is running, the child dresses in her dead aunt’s clothes, the boy ogles the gun in the cabinet. And now something falls against the house, the moon flees, a shot rings out. . . .

Bent Road is wonderfully written, believable and eerie, and so precisely paced, a rising heartbeat like the one Edgar Allan Poe wrote about in The Tell-Tale Heart. The ending is not what you might expect, but then nothing in this story is exactly as it seems. It is that very note of discordance that makes it so intriguing, that sets in motion that buzz in your brain. You’ll think about it even after you’ve finished. It’s just that compelling.

For more about the author, Lori Roy, visit her website.

Comments

This sounds very much like my kind of book. Thanks so much for pointing it out.
Barbara Sissel said…
You are so welcome, Kathryn. It's a truly great read!
Outstanding review! This sounds like such a wonderful read!

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