9: Back Roads

Back Roads by Tawni O’Dell

I got this at the book sale, but it’s not a library book. Must have been a donation. Good condition hardcover, with dust jacket. The front cover is embossed with TLO. Author’s initials?

It’s odd reading this book, finally. Brings back memories of when it was first released and Oprah picked it and everyone and their dog was reading it. Back in the pre-TC days…!

Of course, I didn’t read it then, because I don’t like to jump on bandwagons. So it’s funny that after I finished reading and went poking around for a few links to add here, one of the first that popped up was a recent newspaper article that mentioned it’s being made into a movie. lol! Good thing I read it before all the dust jackets were replaced with movie-tie-in covers 😉

Back Roads is narrated by 19-year-old Harley, who has been guardian of his three younger sisters since their mother went to prison for killing their father. He’s worried about money, being a virgin, and how to keep his sisters out of trouble. The eldest, Amber, is wild. The middle, Misty, is possibly insane. The youngest, Jody, is traumatized.

At the beginning, Harley is working two jobs and is infatuated with the mother (Callie) of one of Jody’s friends. He hasn’t seen his mother since she went to prison, although he takes his sisters to see her. He has court-mandated appointments with a psychologist. It’s a good set-up.

The flaw to this book, for me, was with the plot, which started out well, but careened out of control from about halfway to the end. I think one Big Secret was plenty. Two Big Secrets? Overkill. The thing is, Secret One, which was plenty huge and could have been developed much further than it was, kind of got swept away by the tsunami of Secret Two.

It was a bit of a let-down to have this big build to the first secret (there had already been a red herring subplot on the way to its reveal), only to have it brushed aside like it didn’t really matter (I think it did). I felt like I was being yanked around as a reader.

I realize the second secret led directly to the climax, but I think we could have got there another way.

But I liked this book. The voice, the characterization—so often when you have a bunch of siblings, they’re indistinguishable from one another aside from their names; here Harley’s three sisters were all distinct individuals—and the setting were all well done.

Not to mention it was refreshing to read a story without a single millionaire in it. Oh, wait. Maybe Callie was a millionaire. She did have all that land… 😉

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4 thoughts on “9: Back Roads

  1. Stephanie

    I still love this one. I picked it up b/c the setting was local.

    I did wonder whatever became of the movie so I’m off to read that next…

    1. Theryn Post author

      I thought she did a good job of depicting the setting; it seemed very vivid to me. What did you think?

      Curious because I just finished a book set in Van (haven’t blogged about it yet) and while I could totally picture the setting, I’m wondering how much of that is me being familiar with the area vs. what actually comes across on the page.

      1. Stephanie

        Laurel is very recognizable as Indiana, PA. And the area around is true as are the people. Hawk also read Back Roads, at my insistence, and the property they lived in was, I think, too familiar for him 😉 Just the other day I drove past a “perfect” house and wondered if they have a doll in a crocheted dress as a TP cozy.

      2. Theryn Post author

        Sadly, I’m all too familiar with the crocheted doll tp cover. I don’t believe we ever had one ourselves, but they were a staple in the neighborhoods we lived in.

        The mom next door was essentially a professional crafter (she’d totally be on Etsy now), and those were def. in her repertoire. (All year she’d make crafts, until their basement was stuffed full, and then sell them at their annual church bazaar–yes, unfortunately, I think the Catholic church got all the proceeds of her work.)

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