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[Read] ♔ The Kept ⚖

2.5 starsWay too much ambiguity and author James Scott s unnecessarily ornate writing style stand in the way ofThe Kept from being a novel to savor It s a shame, too, as this had plenty of potential to soar with the greats Try this premise on for size Elspeth Howell, an upstate early 1900s midwife, trudges home through the snow in the dead of winter to her husband and five kids only to find them murdered well, all but one son, 12 year old Caleb, hiding in the pantry, who, fearing the murderers have returned, mistakenly shoots his mom, then sets the house on fire All of which happens in the first two chapters.As you might expect, this is one frightfully bleak novel, that, unfortunately, never really climbs above anti climax The bulk of the novel alternates between explaining with laconic pacing how and why this depravity was perpetrated, and what mom Elspeth recovered from being shot and son Caleb plan to do to avenge their family s murders. Had Scott stuck closer to the advancement of the story and spent less time trying to dazzle with flowery, go nowhere prose, he probably could ve struck literary gold here, but instead flounders to provide an ending that s even remotely as interesting as the promising start.. Meh I read about one third of this novel before I decided I just didn t care enough to continue It s historical fiction, set in late 1800s in rural New York, and the story involves a midwife returning home to find her husband and children murdered She and the son who survived set off on a journey to seek revenge.The book was atmospheric, with lots of description, but it felt like a writing exercise that was all flash and no substance The characters felt flat and shallow, and I couldn t buy into their dilemma Not even the mystery of who killed the family kept me interested in reading it.This is two novels in a row for me that were mediocre and I had to abandon Hopefully my next book will berewarding. [Read] ☪ The Kept ♠ Set In Rural New York State At The Turn Of The Twentieth Century, Superb New Talent James Scott Makes His Literary Debut With The Kept A Propulsive Novel Reminiscent Of The Works Of Michael Ondaatje, Cormac McCarthy, And Bonnie Jo Campbell, In Which A Mother And Her Young Son Embark On A Quest To Avenge A Terrible And Violent Tragedy That Has Shattered Their Secluded FamilyIn The Winter Of , A Trio Of Killers Descends Upon An Isolated Farm In Upstate New York Midwife Elspeth Howell Returns Home To The Carnage Her Husband, And Four Of Her Children, Murdered Before She Can Discover Her Remaining Son Caleb, Alive And Hiding In The Kitchen Pantry, Another Shot Rings Out Over The Snow Covered Valley Twelve Year Old Caleb Must Tend To His Mother Until She Recovers Enough For Them To Take To The Frozen Wilderness In Search Of The Men ResponsibleA Scorching Portrait Of A Merciless World Of Guilt And Lost Innocence, Atonement And Retribution, Resilience And Sacrifice, Pregnant Obsession And Primal Adolescence The Kept Introduces An Old Beyond His Years Protagonist As Indelible And Heartbreaking As Mattie Ross Of True Grit Or Jimmy Blevins Of All The Pretty Horses, As Well As A Shape Shifting Mother As Enigmatic And Mysterious As A Character Drawn By Russell Banks Or Marilynne Robinson From the opening line of this striking debut novel, the mood and voice are both haunting and laced with shame Elspeth Howell was a sinner It is three years shy of the turn of the twentieth century, upstate New York, bitterly cold and snowy with grey, smudgy skies Elspeth is trudging miles from the train station to her family s isolated home, and she is carrying gifts for her five children and pious, Bible quoting husband She s been gone for four months, not unusual for her midwifery practice As she rises up the crest of the last hill, she sees her house The small plateau seemed made for them, chiseled by God for their security, to hold them like a perfect secret Although the novel, stark and lean and elegantly written, progresses with a measured, lingering pace for most of the novel, it goes for the jugular at the outset After a shocking tragedy that sets the premise for the rest of the story, the narrative continues languidly, but with terse prose, weaving in background information with current concerns The momentum slows considerably, yet the writing keeps you absorbed, as the author delves into the deep seated corners of character Elspeth has morally wretched obsessions and impulses that underlie the events of this bleak and troubled tale Guilt, shame, retribution, sacrifice, and the lengths we go to protect our family are mined with lyrical and somber mercy Or is it merciless I d rather not go further in describing this searing, harrowing story As Elspeth and her twelve year old son, Caleb, journey by foot to search and avenge, the reader is immersed in the sense that the hunters are also the hunted Scott s descriptions are masterful, his extended metaphors gnawing and scorching This is fine literature if you don t mind a slower paced story, but one saturated in full characterizations, you will ride the suspense till the final, melancholy pages I continue to contemplate this enigmatic story, its sense of deliverance like a ghost that trembles through the pages. RedemptionHave you ever done something so wrong you felt you could never be forgiven and then set out to make things right, or at least as right as they could be, no matter what the cost Almost every character in The Kept feels they have something to for which they must atone No one is exempt and in an odd way this binds them together, brings them closer to one another.After a family tragedy a mother and son, Elspeth and Caleb, go on an odyssey to try and seek revenge but along the way they encounter truths and find some answers to questions that have long haunted them They also forge a truer relationship with one another.Though as near as I could fathom the action in The Kept takes place somewhere in the 1880 s in Illinois or Minnesota this book reads like a classic western replete with lawless frontier towns and amoral killers and wandering rootless, lost souls It s a sad story but it s also filled with wisdom and compassion so ultimately it s uplifting James Scott is an impressive new writer.This review is based on an advance reader s copy provided by the publisher Disclaimer included as required by the FTC. I thought at first that James Scott s hyped first novel The Kept might turn out to be stunning The beginning was strikingly well written, I thought not so much the first few pages, focalized through Elspeth, as the longer subsequent section centered on her twelve year old son Caleb as he tries to cope alone with the aftermath of the massacre of his family in a remote farm in upstate New York Some of the scenes here are genuinely haunting The next section of the narrative, the beginning of Caleb and Elspeth s grueling winter journey to avenge their dead, was also pretty good.Around ten chapters in, however, as mother and son head towards the fictional town of Watersbridge, where the remainder of the novel takes place, the quality of the writing takes quite a sharp downturn from which I felt it never recovered This is apparent first stylistically, at the level of phrase and sentence The prose goes from being highly curated to oddly lax, as though there were whole stretches that hadn t been properly revised Elspeth heard the thunderous stampeding of Owen and his friends, the wails and squeals they d emitted , the closet full of rolled white bandages Some sentences even sound as if they had been badly translated from another language While her lungs and muscles coursed with the fight, her broken nose ached in the wind, and her ears rang from Owen s gun, she continued on The narrative also crucially loses momentum in the long central passage in Watersbridge Caleb and Elspeth go their separate ways, he to hang around in a louche and violent saloon brothel where he hopes to discover his family s killers, she to work in the ice trade, which seems the main industry of the town The novel becomes quite densely peopled with new characters at this point and loses focus, haring off after to my mind not especially engaging sub plots, such as the developing relationship between a cross dressed Elspeth and her implausibly characterized coworker Charles By the times the threads of the novel begin to be pulled together in anticipation of a predictably violent d nouement The Kept likes its violence my interest had completely dissipated Even if it hadn t, I think Scott s inert style of action writing in the final chapters would have probably been the nail in the coffin Shane got between them and the two men tussled before Ethan grew weary of it and flung Shane aside Elspeth, too, tried to stop Ethan, but Owen pressed a hand to her midsection Quite a few reviews, both in the press and on this site, describe this book as bleak, and I suppose it is, if you base your estimate of bleakness on the body count and the weather There s a quite a strong element of sentimentality in The Kept, however, apparent in the treatment of Elspeth s and Caleb s relationship towards the end of the novel, and also of Elspeth s relationship with Charles Stoner, which I read immediately before this, is muchgenuinely bleak in all kinds of ways, even though no little girls are shot in the head and no hapless messenger boys get crushed under massive blocks of ice The Kept s flirtation with sentimentality reaches its apogee when the nice Jewish man who runs the mercantile in Watersbridge is shown giving credit a lot of credit to Caleb, despite the fact that he is twelve, has no obvious means of support, and has just arrived in town Later, the same man and his equally nice dressmaker wife give away an entire wardrobe of expensive clothes and accessories to Elspeth, a complete stranger, on an impulse of human sympathy This is not really how I would imagine the business model of shopkeepers in a tough, late nineteenth century frontier town I get the point that this mercantile household is supposed to represent some kind of positive extreme within the spectrum of mainly dysfunctional families, biological and otherwise, that Scott piles into the novel as comparative material for the dysfunctional functional family at its core Sacrificing plausibility for thematic symmetries is always problematic in a would be realist novel, though Scott does a lot of it, especially towards the end. Do not look past this book thinking it s not your thing, you don t like historical fiction or the plot is not exciting you I overcame all these things and gave this a whirl and boy am I glad I did.The book just blew me away, what a dark, atmospheric emotional novel this is, absolutely unique from anything I have read for a long time It will stay with me for a while, I still keep thinking back on this book and it s characters It s haunting and it s haunting me.What s the book about It is the winter of 1897 Elspeth Howell returns to her isolated snow bound farm to find her family brutally killed Only her son Caleb has survived and, thinking that the murderers have returned, he shoots his mother.With her chest bound and Caleb at her side, Elspeth sets out to find the men who committed this heinous crime But as they get closer to the perpetrators, Caleb discovers his mother has a truly terrible secret and Elspeth finally begins to understand its hideous consequences.My Review Where do I begin Firstly, let me tell you this is not a fast paced action packed book, it moves slowly, beautifully, surrounds you, pulls you in and gently takes you with it The writing is sublime, just magnificent I am baffled at the low reviews this book is getting.So Elspeth Howell and her only remaining child Caleb set out to hunt the men who killed the family in cold blood, Caleb is twelve years old yet has so much maturity and depth to him as a character, he has the heart of child, but at times the hardness of life makes him almost a man He has his heart set on revenge, revenge for the slaughter of his family that were killed before his very eyesShe sounded like death as if her life was being pulled from her body forcibly He imagined her spirit like a wisp of smoke, but one with talons and teeth that it dug into her insides and the groan was those nails and teeth being dragged across her ribs, her throat, and her lungs as it fought to keep it s place Just let that sit for a moment I loved every word of this book, I found the writing just drew me in and did not let go For a debut novel James Scott has written an amazing book, I am a new fan.Against harsh conditions Elspeth and Caleb trek to a town where they believe the killers to be From there the story just blew me away, it s one of those books where there is so much hidden, secrets and spoilers that reviewing it is hard, I am busting to tell you what goes on, what they do but it would spoil the entire book Best to read this with no expectation and an open mind The journey they both go on is described individually and together, Caleb is a young boy at times having to do things like a man, to step up and face a world he should not see He s not giving up on his plan for revenge, it burns in him to kill the men who murdered his family Elspeth is a complex character, I had a bit of love hate going on with her, some of the secrets she hides had me conflicted as a reader, but it was brilliantly written, she is a exceptional woman, a character that I will never forget Her secrets are kept close to her chest, but they weigh her down heavily She s made choices that will change both of their lives forever The town embraces the two newcomers, but there are those that see the truth behind the smoke screens, there is a need to watch their backs and be careful Friends and enemies The book is full of scenes that just take your breath away, moments that shock and surprise There were times reading this book that I teared up a bit and felt so heavy of heart, my heart was breaking for Caleb Oh Caleb Beautiful young manHe worried the woman would hold him and feel within him the lies and the failures that stacked upon his chest at night and made it hard for him to breathe, as if maybe he d be heavier to her, and she d hold him at arm s length and wonder how he d gotten so full of rot and poison, not knowing what he d seen or what he d had to do The ending was powerful and emotive, but it will not sit well with some readers, not all books have a happy ending, sometimes darkness prevails, it ends but leaves you hanging almost, I sat with so many feelings in me after reading the last few pages I just had to process what had happened A stunning debut novel written exceptionally well, it s unlike anything else I have read, can t compare it to another book, nothing comes to mind It s a special book and I loved ever minute of it Again, I do not understand the low ratings and reviews Magnificent I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. LAME.Elspeth Howell is a midwife in the late 1800 s She travels far to go help mothers bring their sweet babies into the world She arrives back to her snowy home in upstate NY to find that her entire family has been brutally murdered As she stands on the verge of pushing open the kitchen door, a gunshot goes off Is the killer still loose in the house Is she dead No.Elspeth s sole surviving son, Caleb is a terrified 12 year old with a gun Fearing that the three armed men have returned to finish him off, Caleb pulls the trigger before realizing it is his mother returning home after months of being away at work Caleb must nurse his mother back to health and soon thereafter the two of them go off on a quest for justice They go searching for the three men who left a man and four children dead Sounds awesome, right It s not The little blurb indicates its style is similar to Cormac McCarthy The difference is, even when nothing happens in a McCarthy novel, you re still able to enjoy it The writing is subpar in comparison and honestly the characters are dumb The mother is despicable, and I wanted to choke her to death Her crimes are worse than those of the three murderers Yeah, I said it There aren t many who may agree with me on that front, but I wasappalled and offended by her actions in this book than I was anything else that happens in it It made my blood boil to even think of it If I ve got you wondering what heinous crime could possibly be worse than murdering four innocent children, feel free to PM me Otherwise, go ahead and pick up this book when you re ready for a nice long nap It s a poorly written snoozefest. The first time I came across James Scott s The Kept was in a write up in either the The New York Times or The Washington Post I can t remember which I just know it wasn t The Onion The review, as I recall, was tepid at best But the book s cover now that was striking If there s one thing to know about me, it s that I m a borderline alcoholic If there s two things, it s that I always, always judge a book my its cover And The Kept s caught my attention In the foreground is flat, snowy ground At the horizon line stands a lonely, simple log cabin, the interior filled with orange flames the only color in a monochrome of whites, blacks, and grays that lick out the window and which have begun to travel along the eaves There are some trees near the cabin, but their presence seems to heighten, rather than lessen, the cabin s isolation The branches are naked and scratch at the gray sky like delicate calligraphy The cover evokes many things Coldness Desolation Solitude In other words, it is a promise that within the book there will be atmosphere The Kept takes place in 1897, in lonely upstate New York The novel opens with midwife Elspeth Howell returning to the family farm with money tucked in her shoe and presents in her pack When she arrives, however, she finds a cold house filled with her dead family They have been murdered By whom is the mystery that slowly unfolds in this unhurried narrative The sole survivor of the massacre is Elspeth s 12 year old son Caleb Together, mother and son journey to the town of Watersbridge, a tough, frontier village filled with hard and hard drinking men It is a place where violence at a bawdy house is an unmentioned occurrence Where men make money the dangerous way, by carving huge slabs of ice from the lake If nothing else, this is the kind of downbeat story where you know you just know that someone is going to be crushed by an ice slab It s like Chekov s ice Watersbridge, set on the frigid shores of Lake Erie, is Scott s great creation It consciously evokes the boom towns and mining camps of the American West as does the novel s straightforward theme of revenge There are the usual gamut of stock characters a friendly and fatherly hotel clerk a suave and deadly pimp a prostitute with a kindly heart Scott works, however, to give these clich s little grace notes If the novel does nothing else and I would argue it doesn t do much Watersbridge at least fulfills the cover s promise of a tactile setting I respected this book farthan I loved it, or even liked it I understood exactly what the author was going for, but it never stuck with me Partly, The Kept feels like a carefully polished artifact created in an MFA laboratory Start with the first line Elspeth Howell was a sinner.That sentence is self consciously intended as a hook It is supposed to pull you in with its carefully honed blend of bluntness and vagueness Who is Elspeth Howell Why does she think she is a sinner A better book could survive that bold opening by proper execution The Kept does not Oh, to be sure, it certainly tries It is artfully constructed Characters that slowly reveal their true selves scraps of important information carefully elided until the proper moment Scenes that are fraught with all kinds of unspoken meaning Blurry flashbacks that are supposed to resonate with present meaning The construction, however, is too obvious You can see the creator s hands all over the structure In other words, I knew exactly what I was supposed to be feeling, but never felt it I appreciated the novel on a technical level I saw the author s skill, his craftsmanship But I never connected with the characters at any emotional level There are certain things an author, and a book, cannot control One of these variables in the book a reader reads just before he or she reads your book Before The Kept I happened to consume Gillian Flynn s Gone Girl Flynn s thriller is not any better or worse than Scott s revenge tale Indeed, the starred review for both is the same But Gone Girl crackled with zany life The characters were putrid people, but they felt like people They drew from me an emotional response I thought about Gone Girl when I put it down I argued about it, both with myself, and with others It should be noted that I give zero thought to the star rating system Literally zero I can t reduce my thoughts on a book to little yellow stars I can, however, reduce my thoughts to digressive, overlong reviews filled with bad jokes and half formed ideas The Kept kept me at a distance It gives off a frosty, chilly vibe that isa function of its delivery than its frosty, chilly setting After I set it down, I began to forget about it immediately A couple weeks later, I m struggling to remember key events Scott engineers several twists and turns He also delivers a rather stark and brutal ending that might ve come from the pen of Cormac McCarthy The twists and the ending, however, are undermined by the simple fact that I didn t care about the people experiencing these events Everything depends on the relationship between Elspeth and Caleb I just never cared I don t read a ton of contemporary fiction When I do, I probably tend to judge it too harshly, for that very reason This is a novel that does a lot of things objectively right In the end, that wasn t enough for me Something ineffable was missing I suppose it s kind of unfair to judge a book based on something I can t even articulate But if life was fair, I d have a different face. This is a very dark story , set in the late 19th century, in rural upstate New York The beginning is very brutal and very explicit and it is this that will set Elspeth the mother, and Caleb who is still very young, twelve or thirteen, on a quest for vengeance.Extremely well written for a first novel, it is very atmospheric and hard to forget The scenes, the dialogue all are so vividly portrayed, what they have seen and what they go through so hard to forget A boy, who had to grow up quickly and way to soon A mother, who I really did not like until the end, when she finally figures out what it takes to actually be a mother A story of guilt and justification The cover is so perfect, the barrenness, the starkness, perfectly fitting for this novel Reminds me a little of Bonnie Jo Campbell and her writing The comparison to True Grit I can also see but like I said I had a hard time liking and forgiving Elspeth Not sure that I ever did A good, solid first novel, brutal in nature, but unforgettable ARC from publisher.