TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 August 2014
This book just blew me away, what a dark, atmospheric emotional novel this is, absolutely unique from anything I have read for a long time. It will stay with me for a while, I still keep thinking back on this book and it's characters. It's haunting and it's haunting me.
What's the book about?
It is the winter of 1897. Elspeth Howell returns to her isolated snow-bound farm to find her family brutally killed. Only her son Caleb has survived and, thinking that the murderers have returned, he shoots his mother.
With her chest bound and Caleb at her side, Elspeth sets out to find the men who committed this heinous crime. But as they get closer to the perpetrators, Caleb discovers his mother has a truly terrible secret and Elspeth finally begins to understand its hideous consequences.
Where do I begin? Firstly, let me tell you this is not a fast paced action packed book, it moves slowly, beautifully, surrounds you, pulls you in and gently takes you with it. The writing is sublime, just magnificent. I am baffled at the low reviews this book is getting.
So Elspeth Howell and her only remaining child Caleb set out to hunt the men who killed the family in cold blood, Caleb is twelve years old yet has so much maturity and depth to him as a character, he has the heart of child, but at times the hardness of life makes him almost a man. He has his heart set on revenge, revenge for the slaughter of his family that were killed before his very eyes.
She sounded like death: as if her life was being pulled from her body forcibly. He imagined her spirit like a wisp of smoke, but one with talons and teeth that it dug into her insides and the groan was those nails and teeth being dragged across her ribs, her throat, and her lungs as it fought to keep it's place.
Just let that sit for a moment. I loved every word of this book, I found the writing just drew me in and did not let go. For a debut novel James Scott has written an amazing book, I am a new fan.
Against harsh conditions Elspeth and Caleb trek to a town where they believe the killers to be. From there the story just blew me away, it's one of those books where there is so much hidden, secrets and spoilers that reviewing it is hard, I am busting to tell you what goes on, what they do but it would spoil the entire book. Best to read this with no expectation and an open mind.
The journey they both go on is described individually and together, Caleb is a young boy at times having to do things like a man, to step up and face a world he should not see. He's not giving up on his plan for revenge, it burns in him to kill the men who murdered his family.
Elspeth is a complex character, I had a bit of love/hate going on with her, some of the secrets she hides had me conflicted as a reader, but it was brilliantly written, she is a exceptional woman, a character that I will never forget. Her secrets are kept close to her chest, but they weigh her down heavily. She's made choices that will change both of their lives forever.
The town embraces the two newcomers, but there are those that see the truth behind the smoke screens, there is a need to watch their backs and be careful. Friends and enemies.
The book is full of scenes that just take your breath away, moments that shock and surprise. There were times reading this book that I teared up a bit and felt so heavy of heart, my heart was breaking for Caleb. Oh Caleb. Beautiful young man.
He worried the woman would hold him and feel within him the lies and the failures that stacked upon his chest at night and made it hard for him to breathe, as if maybe he'd be heavier to her, and she'd hold him at arm's length and wonder how he'd gotten so full of rot and poison, not knowing what he'd seen or what he'd had to do.
The ending was powerful and emotive, but it will not sit well with some readers, not all books have a happy ending, sometimes darkness prevails, it ends but leaves you hanging almost, I sat with so many feelings in me after reading the last few pages. I just had to process what had happened.
A stunning debut novel written exceptionally well, it's unlike anything else I have read, can't compare it to another book, nothing comes to mind. It's a special book and I loved ever minute of it. Again, I do not understand the low ratings and reviews. Magnificent.