Something a little different today on the blog as I’ve called in the help of the ever so lovely Christine who will be lending a hand with guest reviews, as and when she feels like it. Huge welcome to Novel Deelights, Christine, and thank you!
For eleven years the clock has been ticking for Russell Gaines as he sits in Parchman penitentiary. His sentence now up, Russell believes his debt has been paid. But when he returns home, he discovers that revenge lives and breathes all around him.
Meanwhile, a woman named Maben and her young daughter trudge along the side of the interstate. Desperate and exhausted, the pair spend their last dollar on a room for the night, a night that ends with Maben holding a pistol and a dead deputy sprawled in the middle of the road.
With the dawn, destinies collide, and Russell is forced to decide whose life he will save—his own or those of the woman and child.
This book was not on my TBR list as I didn’t think it would be one that would appeal to me. I was basically ordered by a trusted Goodreads buddy to get it immediately and read it soon. So OK, that’s what I did.
The first half of the novel consists of a lot of sultry southern summer scenes, much sadness, a ton of drinking and driving, and a whole lot of whilin’ away the time by the characters. I turned to my buddy for encouragement. She was very confident that I would be just fine if I hung in there, so OK, I trudged on. Just a few pages ahead, the threads of the plot came together and the story really took off.
Man, what a powerful little tale this is! Desperation Road is a superb title to describe the flavor of this book. Russell and Maben are nice people. They have good hearts. They just want to find a modicum of contentment and maybe even a little happiness. Circumstances, however, are not in their favor. They have not been dealt aces by the “here’s a nice life” cards. So they do what they can. Their lives are not pretty; in fact, they are heartbreaking.
Michael Farris Smith is an outstanding writer. Without frills he can really set a scene. Add some cicadas, and he would have totally transported me back to the summers of east Tennessee where I grew up. A lot of desperate people lived near my neck of the woods. Even better, Mr. Smith pulls his readers into his characters’ minds. I could feel their desperation, their overwhelming desire—no, more than that—their overwhelming NEED to set their lives right.
This is not a pretty story, but a real reminder to us who are more blessed that desperate people, good people, are out there suffering and struggling and doing their very best to survive. We must not forget these people. They are just like us, except for bad luck, very bad luck.
How can something like this have even a shred of a happy ending? Well, don’t forget about hope. There is always that. And it too can be a powerful thing.
Read this book.
Many thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for my copy.
Desperation Road was published in February 2017.