Saturday, February 17, 2018

Book Review: "Lullaby Road" by James Anderson

Some books seem tailor-made for sequels. While you're reading them you get the sense that there's so much more to the story, and in some cases, the author leaves you hanging. But some books seem complete when you've finished them, and although you enjoyed spending time with the characters and found the story compelling, you'd never expect a sequel. (Of course, there are other times you dislike a book you couldn't imagine reading a follow-up, but that's another story.)

I really enjoyed reading James Anderson's The Never-Open Desert Diner (see my review) last year. The story of a trucker in the Utah desert whose solitary life is turned upside-down by the appearance of a mysterious woman was tremendously satisfying and even a little quirky, and I loved the characters Anderson created. But I was surprised to see that Anderson had written a sequel, Lullaby Road (not that it stopped me from grabbing it), because I thought Ben's story was told.

Boy, was I wrong.

Ben is still working as a trucker on Route 117, which most of the year is either affected by back-breaking heat or treacherous snow and ice. He's trying to pull his life back together to some semblance of normalcy after he was shaken to the core by tragedy. All he wants to do is make his deliveries, get paid, and survive.

One snowy morning, making his routine stop for diesel before getting underway on his route, the proprietor of the truck stop tells Ben someone left something for him. It's not just "something"—it's a small Hispanic child who refuses to speak, and the child is accompanied by an over-protective dog. A note is pinned to the child which says:

"Please Ben. Bad trouble. My son. Take him today. His name is Juan. Trust you only. Tell No One. Pedro."

Pedro was the tire man at the truck stop, but he seems to have disappeared. No one will give Ben answers; in fact, everyone from the truck stop has disappeared. He can't leave the child alone in the snow, but the last thing Ben needs is a child to worry about, especially one which appears to have a penchant to take off running in an instant. He needs to find Pedro, but he also needs to start his route before weather conditions get too treacherous.

That split-second decision changes everything for Ben. Everything seems out-of-sorts on his route, even the people and customers he knows all seem a bit different. And in the course of the next several days, he'll realize just how much danger is around him, danger that threatens those he knows, as well as him and the child in his care. It's as bleak as the road that lies ahead of him.

Lullaby Road has a lot of twists and turns—some which make sense and some which confuse, so I'm being purposely vague in my plot summary. Ben is used to encountering people who have taken to the desert because they're not interested in social interaction and are on the run from something, but Ben finds a lot more about those he's known only casually and encounters some new personalities along the way. Barely anyone is particularly friendly, and some are downright deadly.

I love the way Anderson tells a story, and I love the hardscrabble characters he has created. I never quite understood why so many people are quick to dislike Ben, except perhaps for incidents from his past, since he doesn't seem much different than the rest of them, and his reactions to the situations he's in seem to be fairly natural, yet many people call him out for his behavior. But beyond that I was fully engrossed in this story, even as it got a little confusing, and ultimately darker than I had anticipated.

I'd definitely recommend reading Anderson's first book before this one, as Lullaby Road refers to things that occurred in, and characters from, that book. But this one is a truly worthy sequel. I'm not sure if another book is in store, but now I'm hoping there is.

NetGalley and Crown Publishing provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

No comments:

Post a Comment