November Road by Lou Berney

Hello, World.

My first semester of 3L is flying by, but I’ve managed to keep up with Book of the Month picks! Two picks I finished and I enjoyed were Goodbye, Paris and The Silence of the Girls. Due to my schedule, I won’t be doing full reviews of those, but if you want to see my quick thoughts on books I don’t write full reviews for, follow along on Instagram! I usually post a mini-review via Instagram stories.

I wanted to pop in and share my review of November Road, though, because I loved this book. I recently went to Boston (photos to come) and I read this entire book while waiting in the airport and on my flights. It’s so good. The dust jacket flap reads:

Set against the assassination of JFK, a poignant and evocative crime novel that centers on a desperate cat-and-mouse chase across 1960s America—a story of unexpected connections, daring possibilities, and the hope of second chances from the Edgar Award-winning author of The Long and Faraway Gone.

Frank Guidry’s luck has finally run out.

A loyal street lieutenant to New Orleans’ mob boss Carlos Marcello, Guidry has learned that everybody is expendable. But now it’s his turn—he knows too much about the crime of the century: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Within hours of JFK’s murder, everyone with ties to Marcello is turning up dead, and Guidry suspects he’s next: he was in Dallas on an errand for the boss less than two weeks before the president was shot. With few good options, Guidry hits the road to Las Vegas, to see an old associate—a dangerous man who hates Marcello enough to help Guidry vanish.

Guidry knows that the first rule of running is “don’t stop,” but when he sees a beautiful housewife on the side of the road with a broken-down car, two little daughters and a dog in the back seat, he sees the perfect disguise to cover his tracks from the hit men on his tail. Posing as an insurance man, Guidry offers to help Charlotte reach her destination, California. If she accompanies him to Vegas, he can help her get a new car.

For her, it’s more than a car— it’s an escape. She’s on the run too, from a stifling existence in small-town Oklahoma and a kindly husband who’s a hopeless drunk.

It’s an American story: two strangers meet to share the open road west, a dream, a hope—and find each other on the way.

Charlotte sees that he’s strong and kind; Guidry discovers that she’s smart and funny. He learns that’s she determined to give herself and her kids a new life; she can’t know that he’s desperate to leave his old one behind.

Another rule—fugitives shouldn’t fall in love, especially with each other. A road isn’t just a road, it’s a trail, and Guidry’s ruthless and relentless hunters are closing in on him. But now Guidry doesn’t want to just survive, he wants to really live, maybe for the first time.

Everyone’s expendable, or they should be, but now Guidry just can’t throw away the woman he’s come to love.

And it might get them both killed.

This story was captivating from page one. I’ve never really read crime fiction, but I loved the mob storyline and Guidry’s character was so believable and likable despite being initially heartless. This story is told from various points of view, which can be confusing, but Berney writes the story in a way that keeps the mystery going. Some characters have information that others don’t, and you can see the plot unfolding but there are also twists. For instance, at one point you think a character is mistaken, but you soon find out they weren’t.

Berney also does character development well. The characters grow and make choices that surprise you while also ringing true to the story. One character’s story reminded me of No Country for Old Men. Methodical, cold, and unwavering in his quest. It was harrowing at points and my mouth dropped a few times at the utter lack of compassion. Berney wrote the double talk that occurs with the Mob characters so well and you feel as if you’re walking the streets of New Orleans on the hand of high-ranking Mobster who lives and breathes a city that could kill him.

I will also note I’ve seen stories that take place on the road done poorly and when they fall flat, they fall very flat. Here, you feel like you’re riding in the back seat, watching things unfold right before you. Book of the Month touted this book as “movie-ish” and as I read I could see the exact scenes playing out in my head. I can only imagine how good this would be as a movie. Re-imagining the JFK assassination as being perpetrated by the Mob was fascinating and kept my attention. It was believable and I appreciated how artfully and thoughtfully Berney crafted this scheme. Everything was so well executed that you gobble up the breadcrumbs and the whole book so quickly. I didn’t want it to end, but I will say, the last few lines are so powerful (before the Epilogue). Personally, I didn’t feel the Epilogue was necessary, but as an English major, I get why it’s included. Without giving spoilers, it shows that everyone got their appropriate ending.

Overall, this was a four-star book for me. It probably should have been five stars, but there were a few moments that left me wanting, so I went with four stars.

The Bookish Details:

Hardcover, 299 pages

Publisher: William Morrow (they publish some amazing books, they also published The Lost Vintage and The Summer Wives, two of my favorite summer books!).

Published: July 10, 2018

Read if you like: crime fiction, sex, romance, character growth, New Orleans, Mob stories, the Kennedys (history of the Kennedys/ JFK assassination).

Truly,

Callie leigh

 

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