Title: Reservation Road
Author: John Burnham Schwartz
Publication date: May 3, 2012
Publisher: Corsair (Constable & Robinson)
Length: 292 pages
Age group: Adult
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository
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.
The reason why I wanted to pick this book up -apart from the fact that the story seemed very interesting and I’ve always loved thrillers/mysteries – is that it seemed different. I love books that are narrated by more than one person so the idea that Reservation Road is told by not one but three different people who, even though they don’t know each other at first, are connected has definitely piqued my interest. And how glad I am that I did pick this up! Not only is it a beautifully written story with a haunting atmosphere but it is something that makes you think and will definitely stay with you for a long time.
Reservation Road ticks every box: sophisticated and beautiful writing which grabs your attention from the very first page, everyday, vulnerable characters in a situation which could easily happen to anyone, haunting atmosphere and thought-provoking plot. It’s brilliant how well Schwartz works with three so different people and how he manages to create three entirely different narratives. He describes the life of a divorced lawyer just as well as the innocence of an eight-year-old girl or what the dead boy’s family is going through.
Even though the plot might seem like a “regular” mystery with a hit-and-run and the police trying to catch the criminal, lots of action and chasing down people, it’s entirely different. It rather focuses on what the family and the driver are going through after the accident, how the family is dealing with grief and loss and whether they can be “normal” again. It describes how they live under the same roof, together but still separate, their family gradually falling apart. In Reservation Road Schwartz created a story where you don’t know which one of them you should feel sorry for. They’ve all been through a lot for different reasons and the guilty one’s life is just as messed up as the innocents’.
Although it’s not an easy read and it can be quite slow-paced at times but if you pick it up I’m sure it will make you think and stay with you for a long time. The ending is absolutely fantastic and I have to disagree with everyone who says it should have been stronger – I’m glad it wasn’t and after everything they’ve been through, this is the outcome I was hoping for. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Northwest Corner, and finding out how their story ends.
“I climbed in, started it up, turned it around. I put my car back in the garage and listened to the machine hum of the door going down. There are heroes, and there are the rest of us. There comes a time when you just let go the ghost of the better person you might have been.”