Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Evening Road

The Evening Road by Laird Hunt
Little, Brown and Company: 2/7/17
eBook review copy; 288 pages
ISBN-13: 9780316391283

The Evening Road by Laird Hunt is a recommended novel set in Indiana in the 1920's on the day a lynching is to take place.

The news is all over that a lynching is going to take place in Marvel and all the citizens nearby are planning to travel to see it. This is the story of two different women on that day and what happens as they travel to or away from the Marvel. The novel is in two parts, one for Ottie Lee and one for Calla. There is a final chapter from a woman who is called "The Angel Runner."

Ottie Lee Henshaw is traveling with Bud Lancer, her lecherous boss, and Dale, her husband. Along their journey they get a flat tire, stop at a church supper, a dance hall, and a Quaker prayer meeting, pick up lots of alcohol, and commandeer a mule-drawn wagon. Calla Destry, a young black woman who was supposed to meet someone who never showed up is desperate to leave Marvel and find the man who was supposed to meet her, as well as find her .

While the lynching is the main topic/event all the characters are talking about, it is not the subject matter and plays a dark, but peripheral, role in the novel. This is a character driven novel. The main subjects are the two female characters and their self-discovery on this day and during this time in history. They both have secrets they are keeping. Ottie Lee's journey feels disjointed and awkward as the group is constantly pulled off course or interrupted during their trip. Calla's journey is smoother and easier to follow, but almost as meandering. The paths of the two cross several times, in startling ways.

While the quality of the writing is excellent, Laird calls whites "cornsilks" and blacks "cornflowers" which I found very confusing and it made it a struggle to follow dialogue. Having the lynching in Marvel the main event and focus of all the characters, but never really the intended main focus left me feeling disjointed. The circuitous path both characters take on this day is frustrating.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the Hachette Book Group.

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