Thursday, November 17, 2011

At The End Of The Road - Grant Jerkins

At The End Of The Road
Grant Jerkins
Berkley Prime Crime

Crime Fiction

It all starts with an innocent mistake: a ten-year-old boy, riding his bike down the country road near his home, watching the plume of dust that rises behind him.  Coming the other way is a young woman, a little bit late, driving a little too fast, who sees the boy only at the last moment.  She’s able to swerve enough to miss him.  Both are completely shocked.  She’s injured and in need of help; he’s a terrified child with absolutely no idea of what to do about it.

The boy walks up his driveway to his home and, not knowing how to tell his mother what happened, he simply waits for the bloody woman from the car to knock on the front door.  But she doesn’t.  He’s sure she followed him up the driveway.  When he ventures out later, there’s no car and no woman.  As only a child could do, he mostly convinces himself that it was some kind of dream.  It almost works, until a deputy arrives at the door, looking for a missing woman.

This amazing novel is the story of the summer of 1976, when Kyle Edwards turned ten and narrowly avoided what would have been a fatal accident.  It’s also the story of how that one event ripples outward until it seeps into the lives of everyone along that road, changing them in fundamental ways.  In some ways, it’s a coming-of-age story.  It’s the last summer of innocence before Kyle realizes that evil things can happen, and to him; before he sees that even his family can be divided by divorce.  There are scenes that play out in every family, as his two older brothers attempt to separate themselves from the younger Kyle.  Playing in the cornfield next to the house with Grace, his seven-year-old sister who wants nothing so much as to be Wonder Woman and Kyle’s best friend.  Times of resenting being forced to play with his little sister, and times of breathtaking sweetness when they understand each other like no one else ever could.

Part of being a child is the belief in fairy tales.  Mama says to be good or Soap Sally (a local bogeyman) will get you.  When the neighbor across the road, the man who was a church deacon, has a stroke and comes home in an electric wheelchair, it’s reasonable – to a kid – to think he’s some kind of monster, too.  He’s different, therefore scary.  Each little event dovetails into the next, just as in life.  Once you get a good piece down the road, you may look back and wonder at how you started at A and ended up at G.  This novel, by an incredibly talented author, is about filling in just want happened between points A and G, and continues, in some cases on to point Z.  Not a good choice for cozy fans, obviously, but readers who can take a dark, rather bleak look at events will find a story that allows you to inhabit its expertly-drawn world, observing how one action can touch the lives of many.  My best advice before you begin reading is to get comfortable.  I read this in one sitting, but I’m sure I’ll be thinking and talking about it for days.

Rating: 9
November 2011
ISBN# 978-0-425-24334-3 (trade paperback)


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