Title: The Kept
Author: James Scott
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Acquired Via: TLC Book Tours
In the winter of 1897, Elspeth Howell treks across miles of snow and ice to the isolated farmstead in upstate New York where she and her husband have raised their five children. Her midwife’s salary is tucked into the toes of her boots, and her pack is full of gifts for her family. But as she crests the final hill, and sees her darkened house and a smokeless chimney, immediately she knows that an unthinkable crime has destroyed the life she so carefully built.
Her lone comfort is her twelve-year-old son, Caleb, who joins her in mourning the tragedy and planning its reprisal. Their long journey leads them to a rough-hewn lake town, defined by the violence both of its landscape and of its inhabitants. There Caleb is forced into a brutal adulthood, as he slowly discovers truths about his family he never suspected, and Elspeth must confront the terrible urges and unceasing temptations that have haunted her for years. Throughout it all, the love between mother and son serves as the only shield against a merciless world.
A scorching portrait of guilt and lost innocence, atonement and retribution, resilience and sacrifice, pregnant obsession and primal adolescence, The Kept is told with deep compassion and startling originality, and introduces James Scott as a major new literary voice.
The Kept by James Scott is a very smart and well-written debut novel. It's dark and intense, but ultimately it wasn't for me. Though I enjoy novels with a literary feel to them very much, the early parts of The Kept reminded me too much of As I Lay Dying (or what I read of it anyway) and failed to capture my attention.
I tried to like The Kept. Elspeth Howell was a woman that I would have enjoyed getting to know. She had a mystery regarding her children that I would have loved to unravel. Hell, even her relationship with her husband and more of her history with him leading up to her family's murder would have been wonderful to learn more about. I think it was just the foundation taking too long to be placed caused my interest to wander.
Don't get me wrong - the foundation being laid in The Kept is a good one. How is a woman and her Native American(?) husband going to fare starting with nothing in the 1800s? How in the world did they end up with a blond-headed child? Who was the man that Caleb seen shot by his father sometime before the events of the novel? Is everything related? I don't know about you, but I thought the concept sounded great. I suppose I'm just too lazy literary fiction that does anything less than immediately enthrall me.
While The Kept was not a novel for me, I would hate for anyone to walk away from reading it based on my review alone. I'm admittedly a temperamental reader, and I just wasn't in the mood for the historical revenge novel that was The Kept. I'm sure I've missed out on something lovely.
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About the Author
James Scott was born in Boston and grew up in upstate New York. He holds a BA from Middlebury College and an MFA from Emerson College. His fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, American Short Fiction, and other publications. He lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and dog. The Kept is his first novel.
Find out more about James at his website.
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To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received a copy of the novel from the publisher through TLC Book Tours in exchange for an unbiased review. It has in no way affected the outcome. All expressed opinions are awesome, honest, and courtesy of me.