At the close of a beautiful summer day near the quiet Connecticut town where they live, the Learner family – Ethan and Grace, their children, Josh and Emma – stop at a gas station on their way home from a concert. Josh Learner, lost in a ten-year-old’s private world, is standing at the edge of the road when a car comes racing around the bend. He is hit and instantly killed. The car speeds away. From this moment forward, Reservation Road becomes a harrowing countdown to the confrontation between two very different men. The hit-and-run driver is a small-town lawyer named Dwight Arno, a man in desperate need of a second chance. Dwight is also the father of a ten-year-old boy, who was asleep in the car the night Josh Learner was killed. In a gripping narrative woven from the voices of Ethan, Dwight, and Grace, Reservation Road tells the story of two ordinary families facing an extraordinary crisis–a book that reads like a thriller but opens up a world rich with psychological nuance and emotional wisdom. Reservation Road explores the terrain of grief even as it astonishes with unexpected redemption: powerful and wrenching and impossible to put down.
Reservation Road was less of a thriller than I had really expected from the synopsis. There was a certain element of one man trying to find his son’s killer, and another man trying to hide, but that was only a very minor element of the story when it came down to it. In fact the synopsis made me want to read the book less than I would have if it was presented in the way I read it.
This was a story of loss, and of love. Initially the loss of Josh and how it effects his family- particularly his parents. You can really imagine how his parents may feel, and although you see different perspectives from the family they don’t really hold together, which increases the sense that the family are falling apart, individually and as a unit. Sometimes I found myself almost wanting to shout at them to get their acts together because being able to see inside all their thoughts made you know that they could help each other if they tried. Indeed that they had the capacity to help one-another.
On the other side you see Dwight. A man terrified of loosing his own son who he as just started establishing a new relationship with after some time in prison and a split from his son’s mother. Dwight is so scared that something will go wrong, and he searches for love from his son. I think that is part of the reason that he drove on after hitting Josh- he fears he will loose his son all over again. It was quite clever how Burham Schwartz made you feel sympathetic for Dwight rather than angry at him for hiding. I think I preferred the story of Josh’s family, but Dwight’s story was compelling enough to want to read.
Corsair have also sent me the sequel to Reservation Road (Northwest Corner
) to review. I am unsure of how wise a sequel is as Reservation Road feels like a stand-alone novel, however I am interested to see.
I haven’t spotted any other reviews of Reservation Road but if you have written one leave a link in comments and I will add it here.