paperback; 320 pages
November Road by Lou Berney is a very highly recommended novel that is part thriller, part character study, and thoroughly exceptional. Set in 1963 after the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, this is an incredible story of fugitives making connections while on the run across America.
Frank Guidry is a smooth operator and loyal lieutenant to Carlos Marcello, the mob boss of New Orleans. Within hours of JFK's assassination, it becomes clear to Frank that everybody is expendable and he may now be on that list. He did a small errand for Marcello and now it looks like that errand might tie him, thus Marcello, to the assassination. Frank realizes that he is being set up to end up dead, so he goes on the run, covering his tracks as best as he can. Frank decides he needs to head to Los Vegas where he knows a man who hates Marcello and might help him.
Along the way Frank meets another person on the run. Charlotte Roy has packed up her two girls and the dog in the car, leaving her drunken husband Dooley, and Woodrow, Oklahoma behind. Charlotte can't take another stifling day of her existence in the small Oklahoma town and hopes to make it to California. Charlotte and Frank find themselves staying at the same motel after her car breaks down in New Mexico. Posing as an insurance salesman, Frank convinces Charlotte to travel with him to Los Vegas, where he knows a man who can give her a new car.
The two make a connection with each other. Both are trying to escape, but they also see part of what the other wants. Charlotte sees a strong, kind man, while Frank sees a determined, smart woman. Both of them want a new life. What Frank knows and Charlotte doesn't, is that a ruthless killer, Paul Barone, is looking for him and traveling with her and the girls might get him off Frank trail.
The writing in this novel is absolutely exceptional and perfectly presented. The pacing is outstanding and the writing and storytelling will keep you glued to the pages. This is a brilliant just-one-more-chapter novel. The narrative alternates between the point-of-view of three characters, Frank, Charlotte, and Barone. As the tension keeps rising incrementally, it soon becomes impossible to set this story aside. You have to keep reading to find out what happens next. And you will be invested in these characters and what happens to them.
The character development in November Road is impressive and memorable. Berney gets into the heart of his characters, exposing their flaws, but also their dreams and goals. These characters all go through a transformation and growth. Barone, the killer, is a cruel and cold hearted as you would expect and the thought of him coming after anyone will send a shiver down your spine. Along with the great character development, the historical setting is perfectly captured. There is a play list of music in the novel included at the end of the novel for anyone who wants to listen to the songs in the novel.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins for a review with TLC Book Tours.