Friday, December 6, 2013

The Kept by James Scott

When Elspeth Howell returns to her family's farm in 1897 after working away from them for months, the first thing that strikes her is the silence.  She moves quietly into the farmhouse and she sees what no mother should ever have to see.  Four of her five children lie dead, as does her husband.  Before she can look for her remaining son, she is hit in the chest by the blast of a shotgun.

Elspeth doesn't die although she isn't sure how she will continue to live.  When she is well enough to travel, she and Caleb, her son, leave the farmhouse.  They leave to track down the killers Caleb saw and watched from the barn.  They plan to wreck revenge on those who have stolen so much from them.

After weeks of travel, they find themselves in the small town where Caleb was born, as the signs point to the murderers having fled there.  They move into the local hotel and take jobs, searching, ever searching.  Not only are they searching for the men who led them there, they are searching for each other and for the love they need to survive as a family again. 

James Scott has written a stunning, original novel that is so powerful that its images will be blazed into the reader's mind.  He portrays a brutal world, unfeeling for its inhabitants, a world in which life must be fought for against the elements and the others who are also fighting for survival.  Scott's genius is that he can portray such a world and at the same time portray the tenderness and love that a family provides; its support for one's weaknesses and forgiveness for one's sins.  Caleb and Elspeth are such original characters that their story will remain in the reader's mind long after the novel is finished.  This book is recommended for all readers; it is a literary tour-de-force. 

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