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Showing 1-10 of 51 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 103 reviews
on January 19, 2012
At first I wanted to write a nice review for BENT ROAD, but I was distracted by reading the other great reviews here. And then I read a review that only awarded Lori Roy's novel two stars. I found myself wanting to write a defense for BENT ROAD instead.

Someone wrote, "The book just wanders around launching into a family drama without mentioning first who is related..." I was going to say, defensively, that when I read the book I knew exactly who was related to whom right off. Admittedly, I had help: it was the word "Mama" on the first page that gave it away for me. I also knew the book didn't wander around launching into anything because that's ontologically impossible, but this engrossing story did wander into these troubled characters' pasts, eerily so, convincingly so. I was going to say that. The same critic said, "The most revolting is a pastor wiping lipstick off a battered and pregnant woman's mouth during a mass," adding that Lori Roy seemed to stereotype Kansas. I was going to agree that that was a revolting scene, and so realistically drawn I felt actual loathing for the pastor. That's good writing, making a reader emote. I was also going to say, defensively, that I found nothing stereotypical about these rural Kansas farmers and churchgoers, but I didn't have to because the editors of the Kansas City Star named BENT ROAD one of their favorite books of the year.

I was going to say all this and more in Lori Roy's defense, but then I learned today that BENT ROAD was named a nominee for a 2012 Edgar Award, Best First Novel by an American writer. Only five first novels were nominated.

How do you defend against that?
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VINE VOICEon September 11, 2011
This rather strained, unconvincing novel asks the reader to accept that Arthur Scott has become so disturbed by civil unrest in 1960's Detroit, his home for twenty years, that he gathers his family - wife Celia and children Elaine, Daniel, and Evie - and returns to rural Kansas, the scene of an event in his life so terrible that he has never so much as visited in all these years.

The rural scene that the Scott's are suddenly thrust into is dark and foreboding: huge, wind-blown tumbleweeds racing beside a car at night seeming to appear as monsters, blind spots on unpaved roads, wild plants that can poison, chickens having their necks wrung as a matter of course, and snows capable of collapsing a residence. But most dramatic is the disappearance of a young girl, who eerily resembles Evie, which unleashes comparisons with the mysterious death of Arthur's older sister Eve, another Evie lookalike, some twenty-five years prior.

Typical rural claustrophobia is certainly evident: outsiders are resented, secrets don't last long, and unacceptable behaviors, like skipping church services, are sure to be rebuked. In the author's telling, in times of difficulty, even within families, exchanges are fraught with abruptness, misunderstanding, criticism, insensitivity, and can quickly turn violent. Her characters are unwilling or incapable of relieving pressures that have built among them.

Any efforts to resolve the mysteries are waylaid by the overall awkwardness and cluelessness of scenario after scenario. The writing is rather plain, often concerned with the banalities of everyday life: baking strawberry pies or Celia botching another country recipe. The characters are poorly developed: what makes them tick; are they educated; what are they thinking. A few compelling moments involving some of them can only go part way in rescuing this minimally conceived novel. In so far as the novel has legitimacy, it is an especially disheartening few of rural life.
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on September 30, 2013
Oh my. Was this the worst book I ever read? No. But it's right down there at the bottom. It's Lori Roy's first novel, so I suppose one can forgive certain flaws for that reason, but it really doesn't excuse her editors. The characters are clichés. The story is uninspired. The setting and every single thing that takes place within it is dark and unvarying in tone. The book goes on and on and on for 352 pages. Why I kept reading past 150 of them is baffling to me. I suppose I hoped that Dennis Lehane's recommendation that it was "rich and evocative" would turn out to be true. Every chapter beyond the book's middle is a boring repetition of the ones before it. The ending is so anticlimactic, predictable and hackneyed that it made me want to weep for the time I wasted on this piece of dreck. Dear fellow readers, don't bother with this one. There are so many, much better books on our shelves waiting to be read.
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on October 20, 2015
This book took me deep into the lives of each member of this family. Writers like Lori Roy are nothing short of artists with words for a medium. Most impressive is Ms. Roy's ability to build suspense. There were times that it was nearly unbearable and I found I had been holding my breath. I highly recommend this book. If you like Joyce Carol Oates, you will love this author!!
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on June 5, 2012
WARNING! SPOILERS GALORE! DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS AT THE END. SORRY FOR INCLUDING THEM, BUT I NEED TO VENT.

The good reviews this book received puzzle me, because this book is much to do about nothing, with repeat phrases meant to be provocative and with no understanding of the human condition. There is nothing positive I can say about the book. The writing was mediocre, the characters were stillborn (just cutouts with no depth), and the author was at her best describing the setting more than anything pertinent to do with the characters or story. I learned nothing from this book except that I was astonished that it was even published. The opening, writing and plot are very dull. It won't capture you; you will want to close the book and put it down.

BASIC PLOT. I REPEAT WARNING. SPOILERS AHEAD. Story of Arthur Scott taking his family back to Kansas, moving from Detroit, because of the silly notion of his oldest daughter being called. Meet matriarch Reesa, and her daughter Ruth, who is married to Ray. All are haunted by what happened to Eve, a beautiful blond, who died young; Eve was Reese's daughter and Ruth's sister. People believe Ray killed Eve and shun him. Ray takes to drinking. Discover Ray beats up Ruth. Oldest daughter of Arthur Scott, Elaine, falls into cliché love with Jonathon, a neighbor. Arthur Scott's wife, Celia struggles living in the country, irritated with Reesa, protective of Ruth, who begins to live with them after Ray beats her up. Arthur Scott's son Daniel's only friend is Ian Burcher, who has brothers and a little sister, so poor they were put in the oven to warm them up, and Ian is shunned by his brothers, because he is small with a bad leg. Place is haunted by the recent disappearance of Julianne Robison, daughter of Mary and Orville Robison; Julianne was beautiful and blond like Eve. Arthur Scott's youngest daughter, Evie, has no friends, is irritating, acts younger than she is at nine, getting into the other Eve's things, wearing her clothes, stealing pictures, accepts a ride from volatile Ray, yells and accuses and is audacious and childish. HERE IS THE KICKER: THERE IS NO GREAT MYSTERY. Discover Eve was pregnant and basically killed herself, and Arthur Scott has blamed himself all along, gathering the wedge root, which Eve used to kill herself. Pregnant Ruth considers doing the same (don't know why), but does not. Orville Robinson killed his own daughter, then shot himself. His daughter, Julianne's body is found in Brewster's Place, which is being savaged for parts, and Julianne is found with clean sheets around her, as her mother, Mary, knew that her husband had killed their daughter. Ray comes during the day, wants Ruth back, shoots Mary, and Daniel trying to act grown up, kills Ray. Daniel is recovering from loss of sole friend Ian. At the end, Ruth gives Celia the wedge root bottles.

Again very dull, dry characters that I didn't even care about, stupid story with no mystery or payoff. I had little empathy for everyone except Celia, but then Celia was very judgmental. I didn't even care about Ruth, who was being abused by the tormented Ray. The whole premise - Arthur moving back - I didn't find his reason and conflict even credible. In most books, you try to care about the characters, and I didn't care about a single character. They are all pathetic, and I just couldn't muster even a single mote of sympathy for them.

Will avoid author in the future. Can't fathom this book winning any award, but apparently it was nominated or won for a mystery category. My response is that it was heavily promoted, or the other contenders were not good, because this book was pretty awful, and its awfulness ranks as one of the worst books that have been read in our book club. You're better off going to bargain basement bins if you want an actual good mystery.
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on June 26, 2011
I want to begin by saying that this book is nothing like I expected. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because I did end up happy with it, but what I am saying is don't go into it with any expectations. I was expecting a literary thriller - Tana French style - and that is not at all what Bent Road is. Just sayin'.

Instead of being a literary thriller, Bent Road is more of a character study revolving around two mysteries - what really happened to Arthur's sister, Eve, and what happened to the missing little girl. While these mysteries are important aspects of the story, and the answers are revealed by the end of the book, the mystery aspect of the novel is secondary to the character development and the study of Arthur's family - the family he created with Celia and the family he grew up with and has now come back to.

Arthur's family of origin is dysfunctional with a capital D. The character my heart most broke for in this novel was Celia, because she was basically forced to live among this family she didn't know much about, hadn't spent any time with in the twenty years she and Arthur had been together, and came to find out that there are serious family issues, and to top it all off her mother-in-law didn't much like her. It was sort of a train wreck waiting to happen and I really admired Celia at one point in the story because she does stick up for herself and try to protect her three children among all the chaos and drama surrounding them.

The writing in Bent Road is really fantastic and while the I would consider the novel to be of the slower variety, I was immersed in it. Completely. I loved how Roy played her characters against one another, how she built these relationships and how she wrote such distinctive, descriptive, interesting people. Yes they were dysfunctional and not emotionally stable people, but they were incredibly interesting to me and I couldn't stop reading to find out what they would do or say next.

While I can't say I loved every single thing about Bent Road, I thought it was a solid novel and overall I wound up being very satisfied with it. I had a little trouble with the fact that it was so different from my expectations, but if you go in knowing this is not a thriller, or even a mystery in the traditional sense, you will be much better off. Expect more of a slower paced, character-driven novel and you will probably be a happier person in the end. I would definitely recommend Bent Road if you enjoy those types of novels.
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on January 31, 2014
I chose this novel based on some of the good reviews I saw here and on Barnes & Noble. I did not like this book very much at all. This book was dark, depressing, sad, and really had nothing to redeem it. None of the characters were very relatable to me, nor were they likable. Winter, snow and cold were almost main characters in this story. Every other sentence described the bitter cold, frozen air, teeming snow, icy roads. All of this weather related description also added to the desolation of this novel. The only characters that i felt some sort of empathy for were Celia, the wife who is ripped from h er city existence and forced to live in the frozen wasteland with these bleak and troubled people. Daniel, the teenaged son I did like as well. Reesa, the grandmother repulsed me, as did Uncle Ray, Aunt Ruth, Father Flannery, etc. I found the cast of characters so warped, selfish, disturbed and extremely unlikable. I did not give away any spoilers here, but this book is rather predictable and I did not find it suspenseful at all. It certainly did not paint a very flattering picture of Kansas in the winter. I was so underwhelmed by this novel that i will never buy another by this author again.
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on September 9, 2015
The writer wrote a very good story, but my challenge was trying to stay on track, follow the characters and distinguish whether or not a character was thinking, reminiscing or actually speaking from time to time.I also found myself going back a paragraph or two in order to keep my thinking in the proper perspective.
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on November 22, 2012
.....and without giving too much away, this one reads like the best of Lehane's books, such as MYSTIC RIVER or TELL NO ONE. When Arthur moves his family - his wife, Celia and his children Dan, Evie and Elaine - back to the family homestead in Kansas, he really doesn't know what awaits them. Or perhaps he does, which was why he chose to keep his family in Detroit for the twenty years prior to their return. Arthur might be done with the past, but the past certainly isn't done with Arthur and his family. What takes place is a slow, mysterious unraveling of injuries, slights and possible crimes committed. Is anyone connected with this small farming community exempt from tragedy? The author's terrific building of suspense coupled with a lean narrative style really makes this book a page-turner. Not only is it a terrific mystery, but a tender coming-of-age story and the careful dissection of a conflicted marriage. That's a lot to get into one book. A true Lehane protege in every respect, this author is one to watch. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED....
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on July 18, 2011
While I enjoyed the writing and the characters in this book, I will warn people that it's more character based than plot driven. I'm not sure what I was expecting but it wasn't that. I wanted the book to be more engrossing, especially once we finally made it to a climax. But I felt like once we got there, the author just kind of gave up and the story rushed to an ending and then continued on with what I thought were tedious details about its characters. Don't get me wrong, I actually felt for the characters in this book---even if sometimes I couldn't quite remember how some women fit into the story. I did enjoy the family dynamic and I loved Daniel's struggle for manhood, it felt very authentic. But I wanted to think "Wow!" or "Crazy . . ." at the end of this story but instead I remember closing my Kindle and frowning, then saying "Whaaat?!" Roy has character development down but for her next novel, in my opinion, she should work on carrying a plot from beginning to end.
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