Road by Julia Keller is an excellent title for this story.
Most of the characters have some dysfunctional issue going
on in their lives, whether overcoming PTSD, having to handle
a parent with Alzheimer’s, or abuse within a family.
Keller brilliantly explores these issues within a riveting
mystery, tying up loose ends as the story concludes.
This series started when Bell Elkins abandoned her husband
and high stress job in Washington DC to become the prosecutor
of a made up town in Ackers Gap, Raythune County, West Virginia.
In this installment, one of her high school classmates, Darlene,
returns to her home town, to ask Bell to look into her father’s
suspicious death at an old age home. After a worker at Thornapple
Terrace Senior Citizen Home is murdered along with her best
friend, Bell suspects another connection. Her investigation
unravels a relationship and secrets kept between Darlene’s
father and his two childhood friends. Readers will enjoy this
story about ‘three boys’ who fought in World War
II to the present day where their children are facing parents
Keller believes “the three boys” are a reflection
“of the boys and girls from small towns in our heartland
that fought and won America’s wars. They sacrificed
the rich part of their lives for our country. The photo I
used in the book was from my mother’s husband who fought
in World War II. He told the story of how he and his friends
were on a battleship in Normandy, but the day after the battle.
I found it fascinating they were there, but the day following
the big event.”
Having been born and bred in West Virginia, Keller is able
to write potent scenes about this state that are intertwined
within the plot. West Virginia looms larger than life as the
author describes the economic hardships of the residents,
the roads, weather, and history, balancing the physical beauty
with the many problems.
As with everyday life the characters in this story have their
past affecting how they deal with the present. Bell, abused
as a child, has these past memories haunting her, sometimes
putting her relationship with a younger man into disarray.
Carla realizes she can no longer suppress the hideous memories
of her good friend being killed as well as her being kidnapped.
The retired Sherriff, Nick Fogelsony, is attempting to recover
from a gunshot wound and his wife’s emotional handicap.
Darlene has become an alcoholic to withdraw from who she has
become. Finally, a daughter is trying to come to grips with
the ravages of Alzheimer’s that have left her father’s
memory clear of the abuses he inflicted on his children.
The Alzheimer’s theme is important to her because “I
have been obsessed with memory. Someone once told me this
quote, ‘Memories are the bones of thought.’ There
are just so many variables about it we do not understand.
I am one of those people who believe the past lives within
us and we never leave it behind. I wanted to explore what
happens when a person has lost their memory; can they be blamed
for whatever grievance was inflicted by them? We have older
people in the world to teach us patience. Making sure they
are cared for takes the spotlight away from us. Anyone with
an older parent understands how it is a whole different way
of looking at the world. Alzheimer’s is such a national
part of our landscape and is a national issue on how we will
take care of people inflicted with it.”
There are two powerful quotes that reflect on the parent-child
relationship. “Just as she had done when Carla was an
infant…She was able to keep her daughter safe, even
for just a few hushed hours, deep in a winter’s night.”
AND “The guilt that burned and surged and twisted inside
you because you so futilely wished you’d done more for
your loved one…wished you stopped in more often and
paid better attention when you did, wished you hugged him
just once more during that last visit, and told him just one
more time that you loved him.”
The first quote was based on how “my sister and her
daughter react toward one another. The mother never goes out
of you. They never lose that feeling of keeping a child safe
even when they are grown and out of your control. This is
one of my favorite scenes. Beth was holding her daughter Carla
and at that moment she is safe in her mom’s arms.”
While the second quote came from “my anticipatory guilt
of my mom dying. I can’t leave my mom’s visits
early because I don’t want to look back and regret something.
Although, I do think most people will look back with some
kind of regret or guilt.”
Sorrow Road has the themes of good versus evil, revenge
verses forgiveness, and love versus murder. In this tale of
memory and family the story is relatable and believable, and
the West Virginia setting fits perfectly into this mystery.