My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Arthur Scott left rural Kansas for the big city shortly after the death of his sister Eve. Now husband to Celia and father of three, he decides that Detroit holds too many dangers for his children, and moves back to the family farm on Bent Road. It’s a huge change for Celia, who must cope with the brutality of life and death on a farm, and the interference of her mother-in-law. Her eldest daughter is happy, having fallen for the young hired hand. But the two younger Scotts have trouble making friends, and 14-year-old Daniel, who feels like a disappointment to his father, is searching desperately for ways to prove he’s a man. Little Eve-ee, named for her deceased aunt, deals with her loneliness by shutting herself up in her
room and playing with with the elder Eve’s beautiful dresses, which still hang in her closet. Eve’s death, an apparent murder, still haunts the town, and when a young girl disappears, folks believe that the same man who killed Eve has struck again. That man is Ray, Eve’s former fiance. Now married to Eve’s sister Ruth, “everyone knows” he’s guilty, and living under that suspicion has ruined his life, turning him into a drunken wife beater. But now Ruth has her brother Arthur to defend her.
Bent Road is the story of a buried family secret, and the powers of destruction that such secrets hold. From the opening pages, a sense ofgrim foreboding takes hold and never lifts. Life on the farm is ordinary, filled with pies and casseroles, visits from the priest, and snowstorms. But death and violence are major themes, and the feeling that something is not right hangs like a pall; when the truth emerges, the repercussions are enormous, and not just for the Scotts. Atmospheric and haunting, Bent Road is an outstanding first novel, written with skill and subtlety.