November Road – even better the second time around

January 30, 2020 at 1:46 pm (Book review, books)

I want to begin this post by quoting from an article by Lauren Groff that appeared in last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. Groff’s piece is a review of American Dirt, a new book by Jeanine Cummins. This novel, which I have not read, has provoked a veritable firestorm of commentary in the press for the past week or so. If you have not been following the story, click here and here for articles that pretty well summarize what the dust-up is all about.

(Flatiron Books, publisher of American Dirt, has just issued a mea culpa so abject that, to my mind, it borders on groveling. Not that it’s inappropriate, but – well, read it and judge for yourself.)

What is of particular interest to me in Lauren Groff’s article is her summation of the qualities she looks for in a novel:

….obvious joy in language, some form of humor, characters who feel real because they have the strangenesses and stories and motivations of actual people, shifting layers of moral complexity and, ultimately, the subversion of a reader’s expectations or worldview.

I have just reread November Road by Lou Berney, and I’m happy to report that all of the above qualities richly inform this novel. One thing that Lauren Groff did not mention is the quality of the plotting. Is it original and beautifully executed? Gosh yes!

In a previous post, I summarize what November Road is about. Allow me to quote myself:

It’s late November, 1963. We meet the following in quick succession:

A small town housewife and mother – think June Cleaver undermined by a restless streak (and a well-intentioned alcoholic husband). Throw in a small time hood and glad hander steeped in the ethos of the Big Easy. Then there’s a vicious mob boss and his highly unconventional enforcer.

It’s a combustible combination. And into its midst bursts an assassination that shakes the world. What has that got to do with this oddball cast of characters? More that you’d think….

This was an amazing read. Toward the end I got so tense and agitated, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to race through the rest of the book or hide it under a stack of magazines – anything to avoid the conclusion I was dreading.

Memorable lines, spoken after a snappy exchange of dialog:

Guidry laughed and glanced at her, taking a fresh look. He liked a woman who could hit the ball back over the net.

An outstanding thriller, on a par with The Bomb Maker.

All I can say is that as much as I enjoyed this book when I first read it, I loved and appreciated it even more the second time around.

Brilliant!

1 Comment

  1. Kathy D. said,

    I only read this book once, but I liked it a lot. And I also enjoyed The Long and Faraway Gone, by this writer.

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