Reservation Road

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9780099513186: Reservation Road

A tragic accident sets in motion a cycle of violence and retribution in John Burnham Schwartz's riveting novel "Reservation Road". Two haunted men and their families are engulfed by the emotions surrounding the unexpected and horrendous death of ten-year-old Josh in a hit and run accident. Ethan, a respected professor of literature at a small New England college and father of Josh, is wracked by an obsession with revenge that threatens to tear his family apart. Dwight, a man at once fleeing his crime and hoping to get caught, wrestles with the overwhelming guilt and his sense of obligation to his own son, Sam. As these two men's lives unravel, "Reservation Road" moves to its startling conclusion. This is an astonishing tale of love and loss, rage and redemption, that is as suspenseful as it is emotionally compelling.

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Review:

"Explain this to me: One minute there is a boy, a life thrumming with possibilities, and the next there are marked cars and strangers in uniform and the fractured whirling lights. And that, suddenly, is all the world has to offer." This is the voice of Ethan Learner, a college professor who has just watched his 10-year-old son, Josh, die in a hit-and-run accident on a silent Connecticut road.

John Burnham Schwartz's Bicycle Days (1989) received favorable reviews but seemed very much an autobiographical first novel. His second fiction, Reservation Road, however, is a book that resists genres: a tragedy where all the characters are flawed and none are entirely guilty; a thriller where the killer, Dwight, wants to be caught but is too laden with self-loathing to turn himself in; and an experimental novel where the narrative jumps gracefully among three perspectives.

In the opening pages Schwartz establishes strong connections between fathers and sons. Moments before the accident Ethan watches his son standing precariously close to the curb; he sees possibilities in Josh, a shy boy whose musical gifts indicate a sensitivity that is no less present, though more mature, in his father. At the same time, Dwight and his son, Sam (also 10), are rushing home from an extra-innings Red Sox game where Dwight tries to rebuild the fragments of attachment left after a bitter divorce. Schwartz reveals depth in simple gestures--a hand, for example, placed in a hand, only to be self-consciously pulled away. Dwight drives on after hitting Josh, though he slows in a moment of hesitation in which Ethan hears him calling "Sam" or "Sham"--he's not sure which. Out of grief, and with only scattered clues, Ethan begins his quiet pursuit of the killer, a pursuit that fuels the novel to its poetic conclusion. In Reservation Road, John Burnham Schwartz has crafted a lasting work of literature, a page-turner that's also a rich character study. --Patrick O'Kelley

From the Publisher:

"This is a shattering book, imagined with startling emotional precision and generosity. And though it begins in catastrophe, Reservation Road turns out to be a kind of map of connectedness: Touch a child here and the whole world trembles out of orbit; everyone bleeds; finally, perhaps, after great pain, everyone heals. John Burnham Schwartz is awfully young to own this much wisdom, but there it is, on every page."
--Rosellen Brown

"A powerful and affecting novel...haunting...highly suspenseful...compelling to read."
--Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

"Spellbinding...a haunting tale"
--Booklist

"A poignant thriller...quietly breathtaking...a suspenseful literary novel"
--Betsey Osborne, Vanity Fair

"A pleasure to read. Suspense is redefined here..."
--Sandra Scofield, Newsday

"A lovely book, full of life and feeling"
--Peter Matthiessen

"One of those rare--very rare--novels that you don't so much read as inhabit...But it's the novel's conclusion, as perfect as it is sudden, shocking and completely unexpected, that will stick in your memory."
--Tom Dehaven, Entertainment Weekly

"A beautiful novel. An important novel"
--David Bowman, New York Observer

"Both a beautiful, wrenching story of redemption, and a novel of exquisite suspense"
--Anne Lamott

"A first-rate work of fiction disguised as a page-turning thriller"
--David Halberstam

"An unexpected pleasure...It will leave the reader entranced as well as moved."
--Erica Noonan, Boston Herald

"A non-stop read...a wonderful writer"
--Ward Just

"A triumph of form, pacing and power...character-driven as it is, it reads like a thrille, swift and complete."
--Kit Reed, New York Times Book Review

"It possesses a conclusion of such power that it would be a literary crime to reveal it."
--Deirdre Donahue, USA Today

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