Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Cemetery Road

Cemetery Road by Greg Iles
HarperCollins: 3/5/19
eBook review copy; 608 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062824615

Cemetery Road by Greg Iles is a compelling, very highly recommended Southern novel of suspense and one of the best novels I've read this year.

"I never meant to kill my brother. I never set out to hate my father. I never dreamed I would bury my own son. Nor could I have imagined that I would betray the childhood friend who saved my life, or win a Pulitzer Prize for telling a lie. All these things I have done, yet most people I know would call me an honorable man." opening

Marshall McEwan has returned to his hometown of Bienville, Mississippi, because his father is dying. Marshall swore he'd never return when he left at eighteen, but his mother needs his help. His father is terminally ill, and the 150-year-old family owned newspaper, The Watchman, is struggling. He also knows that his first love, Jet, who is married to his best friend, Paul, will be in Bienville. Marshall begins his story when Buck McKibben, the scoutmaster who was a surrogate father to him after his father ignored him, is murdered.

But Marshall, who is an accomplished investigative journalist, begins to look into the murder and the role that the Poker Club could have played in it. The Poker Club is a group of wealthy  good old boy patriarchs who rule the town and control it behind the scenes. They have been running the town as long as The Watchman has been around. Now they have managed to land a deal for a billion-dollar Chinese paper mill to come to town and start an economic upturn for the town. It seems that Buck's death may have been tied to a discovery that would stop that from happening.

"To understand this story, you must swim between two times like a person moving from wakefulness to sleep and then back again." The story requires the disclosure of background information from years ago that affects the present day machinations. The narrative is a tangled tale that includes the death of brothers and sons, friendship, first loves, war, dysfunctional families, secrets, betrayals, corruption, and the power of wealth.

Iles has penned another excellent, engrossing, spellbinding novel that will seize your attention, induce many diverse emotions, and not let up until the ending. I was completely immersed in the narrative from start to finish and the pages flew by as I compulsively read "just one more chapter." This is a long book, but it doesn't feel overly long. The plot is intricate and complicated on several different levels.  The setting is well-developed and the characters are fully realized. You may find yourself talking back to Marshall, telling him to use his brain, as he makes some decisions that you (and he) know are mistakes.

The quality of the writing, though, is what sets Iles apart and makes this exceptional novel one of the best I have read this year. It has been awhile since I simply had to save quotes from a novel, and I have pages full of them from Cemetery Road. For those paying attention, there is a plethora of wisdom and universal truths found in Iles writing. 

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

I'm sharing a few of the quotes I saved even though I had a review copy and not a final edition.

"Many a man or woman has awakened from a months-long oxytocin high and realized that they’ve put their spouse, their children, or even their life at risk in a blind quest to regain a purity and intensity of experience allowed only to the young."

"Whatever the trigger of our passion, we cross a line that we once believed inviolate, and by so doing throw the world out of balance in such a way that it must eventually right itself, regardless of human casualties. Ironically, our passion blinds us to our true motives. Often we perceive our personal world as out of balance and seize on the notion that another person will somehow right the ship, restoring the “happiness” we crave. The mind-altering ecstasy of sexual union further distorts our perception, making it infinitely harder to navigate the maze we have created for ourselves. This self-induced blindness pushes us to take insane risks."

“Maybe I shouldn’t give you advice. But I’ll say this: if your dad doesn’t come around, it’s because he doesn’t want to. That’s got nothing to do with you. He’s missing something in his character. Divorce is one thing, leaving a wife. But a man who leaves his children is something else. I’ve got no respect for a man who does that. A father who leaves his children does damage that can never be repaired. That’s why you’re hurting now.”

"And the horror is this: when your wife or husband truly gives themselves to another person, they haven’t done it to hurt you. In fact, they’ve probably taken great care to avoid hurting you. No, the unspeakable truth is that you no longer matter to them. Except as the mother or father of their children, you do not exist. That is why people refuse to see. To do so, they’d have to crack the door on limitless darkness in which they have come to mean nothing to the person who knows them best in the world. They must face, probably for the first time, being utterly alone. And that way lies madness."

“We’re all on Cemetery Road,” he says, turning his head enough to see the kudzu-choked ravine drift by under the gray sky. “Some of us are just closer to this end than others. Some are still near enough to that spring to pretend the road leads somewhere else, or maybe goes on forever. But we’re all headed to the graveyard sooner or later. Or the river.”

No comments: