Friday, October 12, 2018

Book Review: "November Road" by Lou Berney

Yes, it certainly was!!

"Guidry had always taken a simple approach to life: live it loose and easy, let it roll off and over you. Well, easier said than done these days. But he couldn't let himself brood about it, just how badly fucked he was."

Frank Guidry has always been a loyal foot soldier to Carlos Marcello, the mob boss of New Orleans. Carlos, and his lieutenant-of-sorts, Seraphine, have always been able to count on Frank for whatever needed to be done. And Frank has reaped the benefits—he's treated with respect, and sometimes fear, by those looking to do business with Marcello; he carries his clout with him wherever he chooses to go; and it's not just his good looks that entice women to want to sleep with him.

But in November of 1963, it looks like Frank's luck has just run out. The world has just been stunned by President Kennedy's assassination, and Frank realizes he may know a little more about that crime than he should, as he was down in Dallas on an errand shortly before the president was shot. And when Seraphine sends him back to Texas to tie up a loose end, he realizes he's just one more expendable detail—but he's not quite ready to give up without a fight.

In an effort to save himself, Frank tries numerous diversionary tactics which take him across the country, and all the while he's wondering if there's anyone left he can trust. When he runs into Charlotte, a housewife who took her two young daughters and fled her humdrum existence in Oklahoma to pursue a more exciting life, Frank realizes that he may have just found the perfect camouflage—no one will be looking for a man traveling with his wife and daughters.

Charlotte thinks Frank is just being a Good Samaritan, as he poses as an insurance salesman who offers to help Charlotte and her daughters get to their final destination in California. She has no idea of the danger that he's in, nor what that could mean for her. And while Charlotte is exactly what he needs, Frank is surprised to realize how independent and feisty she is, and how irresistible the path she represents suddenly seems.

As Frank tries to outrun his fate, and figure out his next steps, Charlotte wants to prove to herself and her daughters that she can give them the life she believes they deserve, and she isn't sure if Frank is a distraction or a choice worth pursuing. Will what Frank initially saw as his salvation ultimately be his undoing?

"With every decision we create a new future. We destroy all other futures."

Lou Berney follows up his fantastic The Long and Faraway Gone (see my review) with another stellar book which is part thriller, part character study, and part historical novel, as it so accurately captures the mood and social issues of the early 1960s. Berney is such an exceptional storyteller that I was hooked from start to finish, even if I had suspicions about how things would end up.

This book is so rich in character development. Even though you don't get to know some of the characters as well as you do Frank and Charlotte, there are incidents in the book that really wowed me. You know Frank hasn't been an entirely good person but you find yourself rooting for him, hoping he may outsmart all of those looking to destroy him.

My dad used to read thrillers, and I used to introduce him to all of my favorite authors. When I found a book or author that impressed me, I couldn't wait to recommend it to him. He passed away before I read anything by Berney, but I know that he would have loved him, too, and he also would have found November Road a fantastic achievement by an author who deserves significant notoriety.

Whether you're a thriller fan, or just a fan of exceptional writing, this is one to pick up and savor.

1 comment:

  1. Me, being from New Orleans and living most of life there, I must read this book. Soon.