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Q Road: A Novel Hardcover – September 3, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A farm in rural Kalamazoo County, Mich., provides the backdrop for Campbell's appealing first novel, a May-December love story augmented by suspense, secrets and Native American mysticism. Rachel Crane, a homely, foul-mouthed teenager, lives on a houseboat with her reclusive mother, Margo. They are tenants of George Harland, whose wife abandoned him to maintain his declining farm alone. Rachel is as antisocial as her mother: her one friend is David Retakker, a young asthmatic who idolizes George. Her sexuality is awakened by George's reprobate younger brother, Johnny, but when Margo catches them together, she shoots him dead, then disappears without a trace. George becomes irresistibly drawn to the strange girl and asks her to marry him; she accepts, but just so she can inherit "his damned land," to which she feels entitled because of her Native American ancestry. Only in an extended climax, when David's life is imperiled, does Rachel begin to allow herself to feel genuine love for anything but the land. The cast of well-developed supporting characters includes April May Rathburn, an old woman with some dark secrets; her nephew, Tom Parks, a cop who's suspicious of Margo's and Johnny's disappearances; and Milton Taylor, the born-again owner of the Barn Grill. Coincidence and synchronicity among land, animals, humans and weather are cards Campbell (Women and Other Animals) plays too often; likewise, descriptions of Rachel's profound connection to the earth (the girl all but sprouts roots) become tiresome. However, it would take more than that to spoil this thoughtful, well-paced, deeply moral (though not moralizing) novel full of hard lessons and the wisdom gained from them across generations.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Winner of the 1998 Associated Writing Programs Award in Short Fiction, Campbell launches her career as novelist with this account of "Q Road," where old-time farmers meet grasping suburbanites head on.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (September 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743203658
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743203654
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,604,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Campbell grew up on a small Michigan farm in a house her grandfather built. When she left home for the University of Chicago, her mother rented out her room; she has since hitchhiked across the U.S. and Canada, scaled the Swiss Alps on her bicycle, and traveled with the circus. She has led adventure tours in Russia and Eastern Europe. After earning a master's degree in mathematics, Campbell began writing fiction. She received her M.F.A. in creative writing from Western Michigan University, and now lives in Kalamazoo.

Her most recent book is the collection, American Salvage, about which Alan Cheuse, NPR reviewer has said, "In these stories about cold, lonely, meth-drenched, working-class Michigan life, there's a certain beauty reaching something like the sublimity of a D.H. Lawrence story." She is also the author of Women & Other Animals (University of Massachusetts, 2000), and the novel Q Road (Scribner, 2003). She has won the AWP award for short fictiona Pushcart prize, the Eudora Welty Prize (2009), and she was named a Barnes & Noble Great New Writer. Her fiction has recently been published in Southern Review, Kenyon Review, Alaska Review, Boulevard, and Witness. The New York Times has called her stories "Bitter but sweetened by humor," and Publisher's Weekly said Campbell details, "domestic worlds where Martha Stewart would fear to tread." She feeds donkeys and practices kobudo weapons arts in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Visit her website at www.bonniejocampbell.com

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 16 customer reviews
It's also compelling and the characters are fascinating.
Jeff C. Vande Zande
I came away feeling that I had lived this story and cared deeply about the characters and most importantly about the land itself.
Janica
There are plenty of stories embedded in this novel, and they all smolder beautifully together.
David Dodd Lee

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As carefully stitched together as a patchwork quilt, with colorful squares made of quirky characters, the inhabitants of Greenland Township, Michigan, are bound by the commonality of their daily labor and innate love of their farmland. This is the heartland of America, land that has sustained generation after generation. But as much as a failing farm economy, suburbia encroaches upon this pastoral existence, and city people are willing to tolerate only so much discomfort in their newly constructed rural environment. Once sprawled across the countryside, secure from city confines, the old families are slowly replaced by pre-fab housing developments.
Q Road's three main protagonists are strikingly different people, each with particular idiosyncrasies, forming their own core family: father, child-bride, and son, love filling the solitary loneliness so long entrenched in their hearts. The spirited 17-year-old Rachel, a new bride who has married for the security of owning land, smashes through life with no guidance or socialization, save that of her own invention. George Harland, her middle-age-plus husband, is a sixth-generation farmer who knows only that his days are suddenly more bearable with Rachel sharing their backbreaking work and love-drenched nights. George cannot imagine life without Rachel.
When twelve-year-old David is drawn to the Harlands, it is for George's fatherly protection and Rachel's pure female strength, his own mother ever more distant and self-involved. On a clear day when trouble hovers in the air, David is the catalyst for catastrophe, his one breach of judgment forever changing the landscape of their future. For the three of them, life will never be the same again.
The Darwinian inevitability of nature vs.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Paul Howard on January 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Q Road is not for the faint of heart. Author Bonnie Jo Campbell takes you down a Michigan side-road to a rough-hewn world of brutally flawed characters. No sparkling wits, no dreamy introverts here; rather these misshapen and misfortuned people struggle through each and every day. Cantankerous and eccentric, they are driven to alienate kin and neighbors alike. Victims of violent acts of their past, broken marriages, rural recession and self-abuse, they gain pleasure from the misery of others.
Around them caterpillars are splattered under the wheels of cars, crows munch the remains of road-kill squirrels and cats devour birds, all in a landscape haunted by the death-march of the indigenous Potawatomi Indians. Out of this harsh reality, Campbell builds a story of grittiness, purpose and great humor that is suddenly jarred by a tragedy. An act of carelessness not malice, it threatens to overwhelm the community and break their spirit.
In Campbell's competent hands, there is no hysterical reaction and no desperation, just people digging deeper and accepting less. Q Road becomes a road to recovery. No giant steps, no minor miracles, just a poignant reminder that the human spirit needs just small kindnesses to prevail.
Bonnie Jo Campbell has, rightly, been described as a fresh new voice in American literature. This, her first novel, should be the launching point for a distinguished career.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Janica on October 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
While I picked up this book because of the story's location, (outside Kalamazoo, Michigan where my daughter lives,) I was immediately drawn into this rural world peopled by an array of eclectic and sympathetic characters struggling with the onslaught of family farms being devoured by development. The plot revolves around one man's attempt to continue farming against the odds (and fate itself.) While the theme is both grand and timely, it is the people who live on Q Road that make this book one of the most absorbing books I have read in some time. Bonnie Jo Campbell has a gift for bringing a range of characters to life, and every one is both unique and believable and unlike any characters that have gone before. Parts are so beautifully written I had to read them several times, just to feel the goosebumps raise up on my skin from the sheer beauty and power of her words. When I finished, I wanted to begin again, for I was reluctant to leave these people and this world behind. I came away feeling that I had lived this story and cared deeply about the characters and most importantly about the land itself.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Dodd Lee on September 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
It would be wrong of me not to plug this book, since I can
remember nothing in the last couple of years that is both
stirring and still steeped in mystery. This book glows with the land-bound energy of thousands of lives, and not a wooly bear or
black eyed susan can do anything if not reverberate against the template of all that human despair and exhilaration in the name of survival. Larry Brown and Chris Offutt are peers, but Campbell is more evocative than Brown, and more subtle than
Offutt. It's erotic
and devastatingly funny, but when you finish there is a gestalt
one feels, because the love of the land AND its inhabitants (the two go together) in this thing grows larger
as you read, and the small, individual scenes sink into the book's larger purposes, which is to lament, with love, the present tense as it slides past, turning into history, the kind of history that is writ large in landscapes when one is attentive. In the past I've thought I've heard voices in old ruined houses, at dusk, out in some woods, and Q Road reminds me of those small transcendent moments on earth. There are plenty
of stories embedded in this novel, and they all smolder beautifully together. I loved this book, and I hope a million readers discover Q Road and Bonnie Jo Campbell.
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