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Reservation Road (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – October 5, 1999

3.8 out of 5 stars 92 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Reservation Road is a chilling tale of the emotional fallout that follows the hit-and-run murder of a 10-year-old boy. Each chapter of this abridged version is read by one of three different narrators. Actor John Shea plays the part of Ethan Learner, a college professor who witnesses his son's death. Shea's methodical, melancholy tones accurately portray a man desperately searching for the unknown killer. Stanley Tucci (Deconstructing Harry) reads for Dwight Arno, a deeply damaged man who's torn between turning himself in for the crime and saving his own hide. Tucci's raspy and forthright delivery fits Arno's self-loathing nature. Despite his animated interactions with the other actors, Tucci's character is quite believable. Meanwhile, TV actress Anne Twomey reads the part of Grace, Ethan's wife. Her soft-spoken, deeply pained monologues give balance to a story that focuses primary on the emotions of two men. These distinct, varied tones swiftly carry the listener through this harrowing tale of murder, lies, and revenge. (Running time: three hours, two cassettes) --Gina Kaysen --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

From Publishers Weekly

"I wasn't rich, but my life was secure. That had always been its fundamental premise," observes Ethan Learner, an English professor at a small college in Connecticut. Moments later, his 10-year-old son, Josh, is killed by a hit-and-run driver, inaugurating a novel of terrible beauty that charts the progress of grief with concerto-like precision. For Ethan, his wife, Grace, and their daughter, Emma, Josh becomes both a cold absence and a constant, haunting, unfulfilled promise. For Dwight ?the driver who killed Josh?the event stands as more evidence of a significantly flawed life. Dwight is no cartoon villain; with a son, an ex-wife and a history of sudden violence, he's like a lesser Ethan?a poor father who, through incompetence, has killed another man's son. Schwartz structures the book with the tautness of a thriller?Will Ethan find his son's murderer??but this book quickly becomes much larger than a simple revenge tale. Neither does it become maudlin or forced. Ethan, Grace and Dwight all seem ruined by the boy's death, but, like three drowning people, they keep fighting for air?aided by Schwartz's strong, measured prose and exquisitely chosen metaphors (describing his now-troubled marriage, Ethan says, "Our house... a wordless, internalized diaspora... a landscape riven with fault lines"). "I want to tell this right," Ethan says several times during the course of the book. The author's first novel, Bicycle Days, gathered solid reviews but modest notice. With this effort, he seems poised to reach a break-out audience. If a story about overwhelming tragedy can be told right, this novel is?telling it with wise observation and abundant humanity. 100,000 first printing; Random House audio; author tour. Agent, Amanda Urban.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780375702730
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375702730
  • ASIN: 0375702733
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
My favorite writer is Graham Greene & I almost never get the feeling I got when I read "The Quiet American" & knew I'd end up reading everything the man had written; I got that feeling about John Burnham Schwartz reading this excellent, understated, convincing thriller that succeeds in being much more concerned with the people than with the events without being boring. All the characters, including both boys and both wives, are excellently drawn. The book's just a pleasure to read as a piece of craftsmanship, dark subject matter notwithstanding. The only fault I could find is the somewhat sporadic appearance of the Learner dog, who sort of gets forgotten for a while & then suddenly reappears, & that's a very, very minor flaw in an outstanding novel. I'll make a point of reading whatever Schwartz writes.
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Format: Paperback
There's an inherent problem in writing (and reading) novels which devote themselves entirely to unexpected death and its aftermath, entirely aside from the fact that it's a subject matter which has been done, and re-done, and overdone since the dawn of fiction, and is therefore very difficult to make fresh, interesting or insightful. The major problem is that the author runs the very real risk of dousing the reader with such unrelenting dreariness that finishing the book is almost a chore. As far as novels about death go, Reservation Road is far better than most. It's thought-provoking, sincere, and, for the most part, avoids melodrama. But there's not much new for Schwartz to explore-if grief is a universal language, the theme of personal loss is a literary staple. The ending of the book (I won't spoil it) is somewhat surprising, and emotionally fulfilling at first-until one gives it serious thought and wonders if the author sacrificed reality for the sake of making "a point" about human nature.
Two things save Reservation Road, however, and make it worth reading. The first is the character of Dwight, whose anguish and self-loathing in the wake of the accident he caused is arresting, complex, and unique. The second is Schwartz's prose, which is lucid and engaging-on occasion, it's even downright eloquent. In the end, the novel is an almost perfect hybrid of Jacqueline Mitchard's far inferior "The Deep End of the Ocean" and James Agee's superior "A Death in the Family." It may not be a lasting work of literature, but it's a good piece of contemporary fiction. I would consider sampling Schwartz's work again.
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Format: Paperback
When I first picked up the book, I almost put it down because of the subject matter. But it managed to stay with me until I reached the checkout counter and I didn't regret my decision when I began reading it. Mr. Schwartz captured the essence of every character: the mother's intense grief, the father's rage and despair, the lawyer's guilt and shame over the accident the relationship with his family. He captured all that very well. I'd recommend this book to anyone.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
At the heart of this book, are two families, their children, their specific situation. For me, however, the part that held the deepest impact featured the two flawed fathers and their sons. Each father carries a load of guilt and shame, for varying reasons.

Their lives intersect one night, the night the car comes out of nowhere and something happens that no one expects. I KNOW this all sounds vague but I don't want to give much away about the plot but I DO want to say that the characters are so very, very believable that you simply have to know what happens next in the wake of tragedy, how their lives will be affected and what choices they make.

It will be interesting to see what they do with the movie version of this book (reputed to star Elle Fanning, Dakota Fanning's siter) because the subject matter is often dark and painful. It is, of course, in the deep, tragic and unexpected challenges and losses in life where we are forced to question everything we believed we knew about the world - and what to expect.

At the heart of the book is the loss of a child and mostly how his father deals with that fact (he is divorced). Each character in this book has flaws but also heart, soul and substance (at least, I saw them this way).

If you want a cheerful, light read, you won't want pick up this book. If you are a parent (as I am) you may find it painful to get through. But I loved Blue Water (see link below), a book with a similar theme, and each book centers on issues of pain and forgiveness (or lack of it). It cuts to the core. If you are a parent or have lost a child and wonder about the nuances of grief and anger, redemption, forgiveness, etc...then this is a must read!

Also see:

Blue Water: A Novel
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Format: Hardcover
I had recommended this book to my book club to read. It was voted down. (Their loss they missed a good one) So I went ahead and read it on my own. Im so glad I did. It was such a compelling story. I still keep thinking about it. I have tried to put myself in each of the characters place how would I have handle the situation they were in? I cant imagine it, and there are no easy answers. Which comes through in each of the characters. You can feel their pain and struggle. The characters were so well developed even the children. (Emma Sam and Josh) They just werent bystanders in the story. My heart went out to all of them as if they were real people. Yes even the bad guy who did the unthinkable. Even though I think what he did was horrible and cowardly since he didnt stop. I still felt sorry for him. His life even before the accident seemed to be spinning out of control. He just couldnt get it together. Then this happens. I may have hated what he did but I couldnt hate him. It made for a very emotional read. But I loved it. One of the better books I have read. And to think I first saw it on "Good Morning America: recommended by Charlie Gibson. Thank you Charlie. Its a book I wont soon forget.
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