Thursday, October 25, 2018

November Road by Lou Berney

First Sentence:  Behold!
     
Frank Guidry of New Orleans is a fixer, a loyal lieutenant to mob boss Carlos Marcello.  But loyalty isn't always a two-way street.  Charlotte is a woman with a dream but is stuck in Oklahoma.  Taking her daughters and their dog, Charlotte runs away from Oklahoma hoping to realize her dream.  She didn't plan on meeting Frank along the way.  For Barone, it's nothing personal.  Frank is simply a job to Barone, and Ted is just a driver.  But roads have intersections which can change lives.
      
This review is going to be very different from those I normally write.  Most of my reviews break down the elements of the book and addresses the strengths, weaknesses, and highpoints I found therein.  Not this one because how does one describe the indescribable?  How does one dissect a book so well written, one's overall reaction is simply "Wow!"? 
      
Berney has created a compelling set of characters and hardly any of them are quite what one expects.  Dooley, Charlotte's alcoholic husband, isn't a bad guy, just addicted, and Charlotte knows nothing in her life will change as long as she stays—"Charlotte dipped her brush again and not for the first time imagined a tornado dropping from the sky and blowing her far away, into a world full of color."  Sometimes one has to be one's own tornado.  Charlotte becomes the embodiment of who women strive to become.  Some of those who are younger sisters may identify with being the stronger sister of the two.  Frank isn't cruel, but he doesn't mind if others die.  Seraphine is an administrator whose job it is to make certain what mob boss Carlo's Marcello wants to be done, gets done.
      
The blending of history, real figures, and fictional characters is so well done.  While those involved in the Kennedy assassination are real, so, too, was Carlos Marcello.  Adding "Wizard of Oz" actor Ray Bolger was a nice touch.
      
One has to admire an author whose character quotes from "Dante's Inferno" by Milton.  In fact, one finds Berney a wonderfully quote-worthy author on his own—"'My philosophy is that guilt is an unhealthy habit,' he said. 'It's what other people try to make you feel so you'll do what they want.  But one life is all we ever get, as far as I know.  Why give it away'."
      
The 60's were a time of cataclysmic changes in society. "The Negroes, you mean," Guidry said. "Civil rights and all that…"  "Not just the Negroes," she said. "Women, too.  Young people.  Everyone who's been pushed aside for so long that they're sick and tired of it."  Berney captures the feel of the period perfectly, both the uncertainties and the possibilities—"With every decision, we create a new future," Leo said. "We destroy all other futures.  There's nothing quite like traveling down Route 66, listening to Bob Dylan, or looking for a phone booth to anchor one to a sense of time and place.  
      
"November Road" is an exceptional book.  It is a love story with danger and suspense enough to keep one reading late into the night.  Berney's previous book "The Long and Faraway Gone," was excellent.  "November Road" surpasses even that.  Simply put; read it!

NOVEMBER ROAD (Thriller-Frank/Charlotte-USA-Contemp) - Ex
      Berney, Lou – Standalone
      William Morrow- Sept 2018

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