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Reservation Road


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The author of Bicycle Days (Summit, 1989) returns with a powerful story about two unhappy Connecticut families linked by one violent moment. The Learners are the victims of tragedy: an ordinary stop at a country gas station turns to horror when their oldest child is killed by a hit-and-run driver in full view of his father, Ethan. As his wife and small daughter suffer through grief, depression, and guilt, Ethan is consumed by his compulsion to find and punish his son's murderer after the police give up. Nearby, failed attorney and divorced father Dwight Arno tortures himself with his memories of speeding away from the accident. Has running saved his fragile relationship with his own son (a schoolmate of the Learner boy), or has it made the unbearable problems between Dwight and his family even worse? More than slightly hoping to be apprehended, Dwight begins to behave oddly and deteriorate mentally, even as Ethan closes in on him. Narrated mainly by the two fathers, this is a forceful psychological novel in which nobody wins‘except readers appreciating Schwartz's well-wrought prose. Recommended for most fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/98.]‘Starr E. Smith, Marymount Univ. Lib., Alexandria, VA

"I wasn't rich, but my life was secure. That had always been its fundamental premise," observes Ethan Learner, an English professor at a small college in Connecticut. Moments later, his 10-year-old son, Josh, is killed by a hit-and-run driver, inaugurating a novel of terrible beauty that charts the progress of grief with concerto-like precision. For Ethan, his wife, Grace, and their daughter, Emma, Josh becomes both a cold absence and a constant, haunting, unfulfilled promise. For Dwight ‘the driver who killed Josh‘the event stands as more evidence of a significantly flawed life. Dwight is no cartoon villain; with a son, an ex-wife and a history of sudden violence, he's like a lesser Ethan‘a poor father who, through incompetence, has killed another man's son. Schwartz structures the book with the tautness of a thriller‘Will Ethan find his son's murderer?‘but this book quickly becomes much larger than a simple revenge tale. Neither does it become maudlin or forced. Ethan, Grace and Dwight all seem ruined by the boy's death, but, like three drowning people, they keep fighting for air‘aided by Schwartz's strong, measured prose and exquisitely chosen metaphors (describing his now-troubled marriage, Ethan says, "Our house... a wordless, internalized diaspora... a landscape riven with fault lines"). "I want to tell this right," Ethan says several times during the course of the book. The author's first novel, Bicycle Days, gathered solid reviews but modest notice. With this effort, he seems poised to reach a break-out audience. If a story about overwhelming tragedy can be told right, this novel is‘telling it with wise observation and abundant humanity. 100,000 first printing; Random House audio; author tour. Agent, Amanda Urban. (Sept.)

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