A boy witnesses men who come into his isolated country home and kill every member of his family except his mother, who was not home. When she does come home, he shoots his mother mistaking her through his fear to be one of the killers returned to finish the job. Once his mother has recovered enough to venture into the unrelenting winter, she and the boy leave their home behind. The boy searching for revenge, the woman, atonement.--Joe is reader extraordinaire, former TC bookseller-turned-gentleman-farmer & book blogger
Thus begins the incredible tale in James Scott’s debut, The Kept. The novel takes place on the New York shore of Lake Erie, in the late 1890’s. The story follows Elsbeth, the mother, and Caleb, her twelve year-old son. Elsbeth is a midwife who has stolen all of her children, because she can not have them on her own. Caleb is a boy entering manhood early, a boy who does not know the woman he has thought his mother until now. Elsbeth is plagued by guilt, and trying to find redemption, if only in the eyes of Caleb.
James Scott’s writing is beautiful: from the descriptions of his landscapes, to the sounds within it, to the secrets hidden in his characters. This is a compelling novel I found hard to put down, and when I did, I found it lingering in my thoughts." ~Joe
The relentless, bleak, cold weather that is pervasive in James Scott’s intense and gripping debut novel, The Kept enhanced and underscored the vigilance and heightened sensory awareness that Caleb and his mother Elsbeth maintain as they set off to revenge the slaughter of their family. Upstate New York in 1897 still had hidden valleys for remote homesteading and rough, windswept lake towns where the wealthy and powerful ruled bodies and souls and meted out justice as was their wont. Elsbeth, a midwife, harbors dark secrets. Caleb, after witnessing the massacre of his deeply religious father and four siblings, possesses determination and grit that belies his youth. They are each unforgettable and together seem invincible. The power of James Scott’s prose and characters and the addictive narrative kept me riveted from page one to the final, explosive scene." ~Cathy Langer--Cathy is our lead book buyer at Tattered Cover
Indie Next ListJanuary 2014
It is a rare pleasure to read a novel that is written with such self-assuredness, balance, and grace as The Kept, but the fact that it is also a debut makes it all the more extraordinary. Elspeth and Caleb's troubled odyssey through rural upstate New York at the turn of the 20th century is both vivid and compelling, with the starkness of the setting matched only by the ruthless nature of the characters, all stunningly balanced with beautiful prose. Scott joins the pantheon of great American writers such as Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O'Connor in his understanding of the dichotomy of violence and beauty. -- Emily Crowe, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA
A superb new talent makes his literary debut with a propulsive novel reminiscent of the works of Michael Ondaatje, Cormac McCarthy, and Bonnie Jo Campbell
In the winter of 1897, 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 responsible. They are led to a rough-hewn lake town, defined by the violence both of its landscape and its inhabitants. There Caleb is forced into a brutal adulthood and slowly begins to discover truths about his mother he never expected, uncovering dark secrets connected to the deaths of his siblings and his religious father, to whom he had always felt an alarming distance. And Elspeth must confront the terrible urges and unceasing temptations that have haunted her since being expelled from her childhood home, and grow into the maternal figure that Caleb needs in order to survive.
A 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. "The Kept" is a novel that marks the introduction of a promising new American writer.