"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

19 August 2015

Book Review #29: The Kept

One of the most.bizarre.books. ever read.

This novel caught my eye when my youngest and I were browsing in Saratoga earlier this summer at a local book store....the bookstore is family owned and operated and we like supporting those kinds of places.  It was displayed near the Adirondack section because the author is a local although he no longer lives in the area.  The setting for the book is somewhere in western NY out by Lake Erie.  And that right there should have been a clue.....the book's setting was so inconsistent. First he describes the book as being in the north ( to a NYer, the north is the Adirondacks) but then the description was more out toward the Great Lakes and the Rochester/Buffalo area which is west.  It just bugged me.

There were many things that bothered me about this story.  Yet, the writing was, in parts, exceptionally well done thematically and symbolically speaking.


It is the late 19th century......the winter of 1897.

Elspeth Howell is a midwife who has been away for several months from her family and farm/homestead in upstate NY. 
Upon arriving home, the house is dark and no fire is going...she sees no smoke from the chimney.  She rushes in only to discover that her entire family has been murdered.  Jorah, her husband, has been shot to death in his bed.  Her children Mary, Amos, Jesse, Emma (the youngest) have all been shot and left in various positions.  Her son Caleb is missing.  

She later discovers that he had been hiding in the pantry when she first arrived home and shot her, thinking she was one of the killers coming back.  He describes that he saw 3 men, all wearing red scarves, shoot every member of his family.  He had been in the barn and the men never saw him.

They mourn together and vow to get revenge.  They travel to a lakeside town that is known for violence..in both setting and people.  They begin to settle there, all the time seeking the killers.  Caleb is forced into adulthood and slowly learns truths about his family that he never suspected.  Elspeth needs to confront her own past, her terrible urges which are like an addiction and the temptations that haunted her for years.......and in that haunting, she learns some truths herself.

Only the love between this mother and her son are what bond them together in this world.


Well, this book simply was slow to start yet with the discovery of what was happening to the Howell family...and with the realization I arrived at about what Elspeth was really doing, it began to pick up.  However, it continued to just plod along.

It was bleak, stark, disturbing.  Much description in the beginning of the book.

The book is divided into three parts.  Book One is the present with a lot of backstory about Elspeth and Jorah thrown in.  But it is done haphazardly......you will be reading a section of a page and all of a sudden you are back in the past.  That was way too cumbersome  and confusing at times.

Book Two is their lives in Watersbridge, the town where they are hoping to find the killers.  

Book Three is the pursuit of the killers and where everything plays out.  You discover that Caleb is not who you think he is......although by now, because the reader knows about Elspeth and her wrong choices, you will figure it out before this section.  The ending is just odd.  It annoyed me....yet, in a literary sense, it was brilliant......because you, the reader, need to figure out what Caleb will do next.  How he will survive.

This book just wasn't the thrill I was expecting.  How it made the National Bestseller list I will never know.  But...it IS the author's first novel so......and the storyline itself was gripping...disturbing...but gripping.  I had to finish it only to find out what happens with Caleb!  My heart just broke for him.

The one saving grace for this book is that there is a pervasive sense of bleakness....and the setting description....that western NY winter...that is so bleak and isolating (at least I imagine it was back in the 19th century more so than today and even today those upstate NY winters are pretty harsh and bleak) really ties things together.  Perfect setting for such a dark story.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older due to mature theme/content.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 7.


Jerralea said...

At this time in my life, I don't think I need to read anything disturbing and puzzling! Since this is his first book, maybe lessons will be learned so that later books that flow together better. You have to start somewhere!

Susanne said...

I had looked at this one on bookoutlet.com but didn't know if I could handle that type of story line.

Deb said...

Sounds like a weird book - probably not one I would like - I tend to shy away from books about violence and murder. Thanks for the review.

Melanie Lopata said...

I need to read this, it DOES sound bizzare!!