Set in rural New York state at the turn of the twentieth century, superb new talent James Scott makes his literary debut with The Kept—a propulsive novel reminiscent of the works of Michael Ondaatje, Cormac McCarthy, and Bonnie Jo Campbell, in which a mother and her young son embark on a quest to avenge a terrible and violent tragedy that has shattered their secluded family.
In the winter of 1897, a trio of killers descends upon an isolated farm in upstate New York. Midwife Elspeth Howell returns home to the carnage: her husband, and four of her children, murdered. Before she can discover her remaining son Caleb, alive and hiding in the kitchen pantry, another shot rings out over the snow-covered valley. Twelve-year-old Caleb must tend to his mother until she recovers enough for them to take to the frozen wilderness in search of the men responsible.
A scorching portrait of a merciless world — of guilt and lost innocence, atonement and retribution, resilience and sacrifice, pregnant obsession and primal adolescence — The Kept introduces an old-beyond-his-years protagonist as indelible and heartbreaking as Mattie Ross of True Grit or Jimmy Blevins of All the Pretty Horses, as well as a shape-shifting mother as enigmatic and mysterious as a character drawn by Russell Banks or Marilynne Robinson.
The pacing was perfect for me. I was able to learn about Elspeth and Caleb and get inside their heads. They're an odd pair. They have a way of loving each other in the most unconventional sense. I understand Caleb's need to escape. He has every right to break away but at the same time, this is a woman who raised him and is determined to see him survive. The thought of revenge is a driving force, and a poisonous one for these two.
I adored the rough setting and the complex characters. I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. There were mysteries around every corner and sometimes I didn't know what the character would do. The author had a creative way of stringing me along for the ride.
I'd recommend this to anyone interested in a historical or dark mystery.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
His work has been short listed for the Pushcart Prize and nominated for the Best New American Voices.
James currently lives in western Massachusetts.
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