Volume 93, Issue 21

Tuesday, October 5, 1999


Modern day triumph

No Mystery to movie's melodramatic success

Rezervation Road a riveting trip

Cockburn and Misfits come up big

Rezervation Road a riveting trip

Rezervation Road
John Burnham Schwartz
Vintage Books

Rezervation Road by John Burnham Schwartz is a dark and almost Gothic tale which examines the intricacies of life and death.

Set in a closely knit Connecticut community, the novel details a senseless crime which changes the lives of its victims and its perpetrator from a summer night, where the tragic pretense is set, into the cold of winter.

Ethan Learner is a reputed English professor at the local college, who lives a relatively happy and normal life with his wife Grace, daughter Emma and son Josh. This life, however, is tragically changed when they lose Josh. After a hit and run accident, the young but accomplished violinist is left dead by the side of the lonely road on which his family had stopped.

Dwight, the driver of the assaulting vehicle, is rushing his son to his ex-wife's home after their weekly visit at the time of his fateful encounter with the Learners.

Dwight is a lawyer whose career and marriage go downhill after he accidentally hits his son Sam during a fight with his ex-wife. His relationship with his son is loving on both sides, yet strained by these and other extenuating circumstances. Unable to offer suitable explanations for the things he feels forced to do, he flees the scene of the crime.

The story follows the Learner family's painful and haunting journey back to a state of normality. Ethan attempts to deal with his anger, but eventually gains a hunger to avenge the murder of his son. While the family struggles with overwhelming feelings of guilt, anger and sadness in the wake of Josh's death, Dwight struggles with his own guilt and sense of responsibility.

As the story unravels, it gathers suspense and draws one into both Ethan and Dwight's dark worlds, which readers eventually recognizes as their own. It effectively brings out emotion in the reader and offers a very insightful look into the deeply contorted psyche of the American male, as

he tries to understand the world in which he lives. Also explored is the unfairness of life and our seeming inability to either change or accept this unfortunate fact. These themes tie together at the end of the novel in a surprise ending which will keep readers riveted.

Burnham Schwartz's novel is beautifully written and effectively uses cliches to conjure mental images familiar to us all – from the elementary school recital where Sam plays "America The Beautiful" on his trumpet, to a father and son playing catch in the yard, to Sam and his father at the fair eating ball park franks.

The book, voted The New York Times "Notable Book of the Year," will satisfy any reader interested in taking an emotionally captivating journey into the struggle that is life and the loss that is death.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999