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I should have gotten something! Lastly, the end felt like the author just got tired of writing, so he stopped. Having devised my own ending by the middle of the book, I felt cheated. A lot happened in this book, I'm just not sure why. Jan 11, Arielle Walker rated it liked it Shelves: Dec 19, Matt rated it liked it. Locations and the difficulties of day-to-day life are vivid and evocative. Ultimately, the strong atmosphere chokes out everything else…in fact, the atmosphere is the only thing that has stayed with me.

And therein lies the problem with The Kept: Mother Elspeth and son Caleb are the lynchpins of the narrative. We see the world through their eyes and perceive the events through their backgrounds and emotions. But both characters are only the sum of their past actions as related to the reader.

Neither has a coherent inner life. Neither is an actual person. I never knew why either character was taking their respective actions except to move the plot forward and set up dramatic ironies.

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But these weren't the result of a coherent, narratively-earned inner conflict, but rather of plot exigencies. In The Kept , author James Scott slathers atmosphere with a garden trowel—effectively at times, but ultimately oppressively—to build a sense of doom and inevitability, yet fails to create fully-formed, coherent human characters that drive action. The modern Western frequently provides heroes whose lives lead up to a decisive, near-inevitable act of redemptive violence.

The Kept required decisive, violent acts and yanked around its two-dimensional, people-ish characters to make them happen. Oct 15, Sarah Beth rated it liked it Shelves: This novel is grim: This novel feels cold both in setting and characterization. Snow falls endlessly and mothers are separated from their children. Scott has imagined a desolate setting for his characters.

Set near the turn of the twentieth century, the key players in this novel are Elspeth Howell and her son Caleb. Elspeth is a midwife, who leaves her husband and five children for long stretches of time on their isolated farmhouse to travel long distances to earn money. Upon returning home in the winter of , Elspeth finds the cold bodies of four of her children and her husband. Only her 12 year old son Caleb survives. Caleb and his mother decide to leave to seek revenge on the men who shot and killed their family, however, along the way Caleb learns the truth about Elspeth and the lies he was told about his family and is exposed to the gruesome reality of a world filled with deceit, murder, and a multitude of sins.

Early in the novel, it becomes obvious that Elspeth and Jorah's family is not what it appears: However, this novel shows that family relationships are more nuanced than simply blood relatives. Even Caleb, whose relationship with Elspeth has always been distant, and who perhaps more than anyone has a right to be angry, comes to the same conclusion.


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They were to me" No matter how many wrongs were committed in creating it, to Caleb and Elspeth their family was what they made of it and they could not forget the murdered members of their family tree. At heart, this novel is about how one mistake can multiple to create a vast number of acts. It is about family ties above all else. It is about the cruelty of a world that robs children of innocence. It is about what it means to be a mother.

Angelina Jolie To Star In Frontier Drama ‘The Kept’

Elspeth, who came from a cold, cruel family and who could not have children herself, yearned to create a family through the miracle that is a new child - a new opportunity to start over; because when new parents' eyes first see their child it "made Elspeth understand that no mistake existed that this joy could not undo" In the end, this novel was too dark and gruesome for me to truly enjoy. There's very little redemption in this book.

Furthermore, despite the emphasis on family, no deep relationships seem to emerge in this book, although Caleb and Elspeth do grow closer after their ordeal. However, it was not enough for me to be able to relate to the characters or the dark, cold, murder-filled world in which they live. Dec 28, Jackie rated it it was amazing Shelves: This debut novel is a powerhouse of a time and place that shows very little mercy to anyone. The frozen land is just as much of a character as is 11 year old Caleb, who has to grow up much too quickly in absolutely horrible circumstances. He gets a glimpse of the three men who did this, and he knows it is up to him to find them and get frontier justice for their horrible deeds.

While trying t This debut novel is a powerhouse of a time and place that shows very little mercy to anyone. While trying to figure out what to do, he hears someone crunching through the snow. As the door opens, once gentle Caleb shoots the intruder. Unfortunately, it was no stranger. It was his mother, coming back from an extended midwife trip.

Nursing her as much as possible, plus dealing with the bodies of the rest of his family, he becomes a man with a mission. Soon, his mother is barely able to travel, and both begin to track the killers. Everyone in this book has some sort of secret, even the dead. And slowly, as the hidden comes to light, the action and tension increase throughout this book until the very last standoff.

It is hard to believe that this is a first novel--the writing is absolutely stunning. James Scott is truly a new voice to pay attention to. Dec 05, Sara Nelson rated it really liked it Shelves: It tells the story of a mother and son who set off for a rough, rural town in search of the killers who murdered their family; there, they make some discoveries, all right--not just about the criminals, but also about their own damaged selves. This debut is not for the faint of heart--look for reviews that compare it to the work of Cormac The Road McCarthy. This is one profound and disturbing book from a writer to watch Oct 06, Cheryl rated it liked it.

What a toll our actions can take Stark, forbidding, bleak - all these words can be used to describe author Scott's journey to upstate New York state at the end of the nineteenth century. Elspeth Howell, midwife and a woman with a few screws loose, comes home after another lengthy absence and finds all of her family slaughtered except twelve year old Caleb.

And Caleb isn't quite all there after spending days with the bodies of his father and siblings. This is a novel of guilt, redemption, vengean What a toll our actions can take This is a novel of guilt, redemption, vengeance, skewed love. Elspeth and Caleb are not loveable characters. They each are flawed in their own ways. In fact, most of the characters in the book are flawed in one way or another. The plot was disjointed in spots and difficult to follow. But it did hold my interest until the end of the tale. The only problem - I disliked the ending. I felt it was abruptly cut off and we, the readers, are left hanging.

I know some will say that is so the reader can use his own imagination to fill in the spots but if I wanted to do that, I'd write my own book. There are many shining bits of prose and that's why I rated this with three stars rather than lower. But I would have liked a tighter tale with more believable actions by the protagonists and definitely a stronger ending.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Apr 01, Laurie Notaro rated it really liked it. Bleak, disturbing and skillfully written tale of vengeance and morality set in the late 's. A woman comes home to her isolated farm to find everyone in her family murdered except for one son. They set out together to find the killers in the frozen winter of upstate New York. Tense, hopeless and dark, the pair take up residence in a nearby town until Not for Jodi Picoult fans.

‘The Kept,’ by James Scott - The Washington Post

But Cormac McCarthy, yes. Dec 29, Beth rated it liked it. Okay read, but did not hold my attention. I did a lot of skimming pages. Apr 21, Susan rated it did not like it. I'm not sure what I expected but this book was dreary, dark, dismal. I suppose I thought there would be some reward or revelation to come but I never found it. There may have been some hidden meaning in all the threads of the story Elspeth's sins and desire for punishment were clear enough, but the male characters were presented as if they were important but never seemed to quite get where they were going.

The Kept by James Scott is a dark, desolate, atmospheric, and extraordinarily well written novel. I very highly recommended The Kept. The opening establishes the tone for the remainder of this notable debut novel set in The thought passed over her like a shadow as she washed her face or caught her reflection in a window or disembarked from a train after months away from home.

Whenever she saw a church or her husband quoted verse or she touched the simple cross a The Kept by James Scott is a dark, desolate, atmospheric, and extraordinarily well written novel. Whenever she saw a church or her husband quoted verse or she touched the simple cross around her neck while she fetched her bags, her transgressions lay in the hollow of her chest, hard and heavy as stone. Of her husband she notes, "It was as if he had turned piety into a contest and Elspeth lagged far behind.

No smell of a winter fire; no whoops from the boys rounding up the sheep or herding the cows; no welcoming light. Amos, fourteen, Caleb, twelve, Jesse, ten, Mary, fifteen, and Emma, six. The ominous quiet portends the unthinkable disaster that awaits her. Her whole family has been slaughtered. Before she can fully process what has happened, her middle son, Caleb, who was hiding in the pantry, mistakenly thinks the killers have returned and accidentally shoots her.

After Caleb tends to her wounds, Elspeth survives and the two take an awful trek over frozen land and through blizzards to try and find the three men Caleb saw who killed their family. The brutal weather is as much a character as the brutal men they are seeking to find as they head toward Watersbridge, a lawless town beside Lake Erie. Both Caleb and Elspeth are fueled by their need for revenge, but at first only Elspeth knows that there may have been a reason for the seemingly senseless slaughter.

Their quest marks the end of innocence and his childhood for Caleb, but is fueled by other emotions for Elspeth. While you learn to care for Caleb and try to understand Elspeth, it is also clear that nothing good is going to come from their search. Clearly it examines how actions always have consequences and vengeance is best left to the Lord. In The Kept by James Scott, we are presented with historical fiction in a literary novel with writing that transcends the ordinary.

This is truly an extraordinarily well written novel. But it is also a dark, violent, and hopeless tragedy. I'll be the first to admit that it might not appeal to some readers. The tension is palatable and the dread steadily increases without relief. It is a relief to finish The Kept, if only to release the tension and melancholy that will threaten to overtake you, but it is a novel that will stay with you for a long, long time. My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for review purposes. Nov 07, Josh rated it it was amazing Shelves: One of those books that kinda grabs you and then twists and grieves you the whole way through.

Seemingly similar to The Road in the emotions that play around in your consciousness during and after each reading session. As a pure "read" there is more than enough plot in there to keep you engaged, although a slower study would no doubt reveal more complex imagery and meaning.

‘The Kept,’ by James Scott

Much darker under the surface than on top Without giving too much away, all I can really say is that this is a book where almost everyone isn't purely what they seem to be. Most of the "goods" aren't all good, and most the "bads" aren't all bad. Almost everyone has redemptive quality and almost everyone has a hell bent leaning with an axe to grind. Everyone struggles, and the "big moments" in each character's life seemingly define the journey or retreat to or from something.

You will root for people you shouldn't, hate the same characters you love. The 3 book set up, unlike some others structured this way does actually feel like 3 books; each having a unique flavor, tone, and feel. The Cormac McCarthy influence feels quite strong, but in no way does Scott simply mimic or redo that style.

There's flavor of Ron Rash 's Serena , and also something purely his own style. Mar 31, Bandit rated it really liked it. This was one of those books the deserved every ounce of praise it received. An extraordinarily well crafted debut novel. The Kept is a tale of revenge set in in upstate New York.

During an unforgiving winter in a place as brutal and desolate as the cover suggests, a boy and his mother set off to avenge the horrific murders of their family.

This takes them to a town where the past and present collide, very violently. This is a very bleak very dark story that starts off and ends in blood, a t This was one of those books the deserved every ounce of praise it received. This is a very bleak very dark story that starts off and ends in blood, a tragedy through and through.

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It's violent and it's devastating. It's also absolutely exquisitely written, there is a beauty to the words that provides a stunning contrast to its grim reality. And it happens to feature some of the most genuinely original, strong, multifaceted, flawed, moving and engaging literary characters you're likely to meet as a reader. Difficult and emotionally wrenching, but a very rewarding experience. Aug 25, Jen rated it liked it Shelves: It may have been unfair to expect so much from this book.

But in my defense, the first few chapters had so much tragedy and violence that I began to let my little black heart believe that yes,the unbelievably hard times could get harder. Instead, the bad times became more bearable and a little awkward until, finally, there was a meet your destiny ending that trailed off in the distance. Jan 22, Christine Nolfi rated it really liked it. A dark and lyrical debut from an author to watch. Mar 27, Barbara rated it liked it Shelves: James Scott has written a dark and bleak debut novel.

Periodically I wondered why I was continuing to read such a depressing book.


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There were redeeming factors-the arresting style of prose and the frequent suspenseful moments. When midwife Elspeth Howell returns home, she discovers her husband and four of her children have been murdered. Before she can discover her remaining son Caleb, alive and hiding the kitchen pantry, another shot rings out over the snow-covered valley. Twelve-year-old Caleb must tend to his mother until she recovers enough for them to take to the frozen wilderness in search of the men responsible. By submitting your email address, you understand that you will receive email communications from Bookperk and other HarperCollins services.

You may unsubscribe from these email communications at any time. Specialty Booksellers Interest-specific online venues will often provide a book buying opportunity. International Customers If you are located outside the U. About Product Details Praise Set in rural New York state at the turn of the twentieth century, superb new talent James Scott makes his literary debut with The Kept —a propulsive novel reminiscent of the works of Michael Ondaatje, Cormac McCarthy, and Bonnie Jo Campbell, in which a mother and her young son embark on a quest to avenge a terrible and violent tragedy that has shattered their secluded family.

His central concern, as a storyteller, is the dynamic of consequence. James Scott has written a riveting and memorable debut novel. Written with emotional ascendancy, these rock-ribbed characters illuminate loss, desire, and love. Scott writes with an eloquence that urges the reader to return to passages and reread them just to admire his superb skill. At turns tender and harsh, twisted and lyrical. Pulse by Michael Harvey. Out of Season by Antonio Manzini. New York Dead by Stuart Woods. Valdez Is Coming by Elmore Leonard. Hush Hush by Mel Sherratt. Walking Shadows by Faye Kellerman.

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