RESERVATION ROAD by John Burnham Schwartz


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The complex stages of guilt, grief, and recovery in the wake of a boy’s hit-and-run death are exquisitely portrayed in this heartrending story by Schwartz (Bicycle Days, 1989), whose characterizations are as finely nuanced as they are sympathetic. Ten-year-old Josh Learner barely knew what hit him that summer night in northwestern Connecticut, on the way back from a symphony picnic with his family; for the three adults—his parents and the driver of the speeding car—who saw what happened, it was as if their lives stopped then, too. His father Ethan, an English professor at a small college nearby, bears guilt for not having insisted that Josh come away from the road; his mother Grace is guilt-ridden as well, for having insisted they stop at the gas station so that Josh’s sister Emma could use the restroom; and Dwight, running late after seeing a Red Sox game with his son and worried about the wrath of his ex at not having Sam back on time, not only has to bear the certainty of having killed someone Sam’s age, but also the fact that the sleeping boy received a black eye from the accident—to go along with the broken jaw that Dwight had given him accidentally on another occasion. In the ensuing months, Ethan tries to carry on while Grace shuts down almost completely, losing her business and her bearings. The police investigation goes nowhere, and when Ethan blows up at the officer in charge, he guarantees there’ll be no further help from that quarter. Dwight, meanwhile, has let his legal practice go to hell, alienated himself from Sam and everyone else, and taken to heavy drinking while waiting for someone to find him out. After more than a year, Ethan finally does—and as the first snow of that year falls, they enact a ritual of revenge both primal and fitting. Rarely have three lives in crisis been detailed with such compassion and care: a tragic, utterly absorbing tale. (First printing of 100,000)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-375-40263-2
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1998


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