Bent Road by Lori Roy

The story begins with Celia Scott driving through darkness searching for the tail lights of her husband’s truck.  They are moving back to his rural childhood home on Bent Road, Kansas and he’s sped ahead, leaving her without a guide.  It’s a road that’s tricky to navigate even in the day, much less in the dark of night.  And this darkness is full of moving, unidentifiable shapes and shadows.

This brooding atmosphere underpins the entire novel.  Celia’s husband, Arthur, left home over twenty years ago after his beloved sister, Eve, died in mysterious circumstances.  He’s only returned because their life in faraway Detroit has become untenable.  But the return of the Scott family will have unforeseen and tragic consequences.

Bent Road is a beautifully written book.  The language seems simple; no running to the dictionary to look up unfamiliar words or gasps at literary flourishes.  But I think that what may appear simple is in reality elegant.  Roy doesn’t use one more word than she needs and her ability to generate suspense is impressive, especially for a debut novelist.  There were chapters in this book where I held my breath and had to fight the impulse to turn to the last page to relieve the tension.

Roy deftly handles several themes including fear of the other, the influence of religion on behavior, domestic violence, and the question of how people define masculinity.  Her characters are believable and the farm she creates is a farm you can smell, see and practically reach out and touch.  This is a book that lived up its buzz.

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