Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Kept by James Scott

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for James Scott's debut, The Kept.

Readers, I was infinitely glad that Jenn over at Jenn's Bookshelves mentioned that the publisher's synopsis was somewhat misleading. Being able to go into the book with this knowledge not only kept me from revisiting the book's premise before diving in myself but allowed me to really let go of any early misconceptions I might have had about the book. In finishing it and then going back to that synopsis I can say that it actually isn't entirely inappropriate, it's simply that James Scott's book is one that is difficult to describe in any real depth without giving away too much. And so, as Jenn did with her review, I will be brief in my own version of the description as well.

Elspeth Howell's job as a midwife often calls for her to be away from her home for long periods of time. When she returns from her latest trip, she discovers that her family has fallen victim to a brutal and senseless crime. The only survivor is her twelve-year-old son Caleb, who, having hidden out in the pantry since the event, accidentally shoots his mother before realizing she is not in fact the killers returning to finish the job. Caleb immediately goes about trying to save Elspeth and nurse her back to health while vowing to track down his family's murderers.

As Elspeth begins to recover, she and her son set off to track down the criminals. But along the way, Elspeth will have to face down a guilt that has weighed heavy on her heart for most of her life.

James Scott's debut is beautifully stark and captivating. It doesn't take long to discover that The Kept is a gem of a story, setting in the reader's mind a certainty about the direction it will take and the characters that quickly unravels and transforms into something else.

Elspeth's story unfolds in a series of flashbacks about the births of her children, her childhood, and her husband, Jorah. And as we learn about the very pieces that make up the puzzle of this character, we also see Caleb grow from a boy into a man. Caleb's narrative also takes this same flashback approach illustrating a boy who stands out from his family. His siblings say they don't understand him and he spends more time with the animals than he does with the rest of the family.

And readers, this is an oddly quirky story as well. It's set in winter 1897 in upstate New York. Superstitions and beliefs of the time do play a big role in the book, as does the desolate and remote setting. Elspeth and her family essentially live cut off from the world, as do others in their area, and many of the characters introduced in the book are peculiar.

I'm sure the cold and snowy weather we've been having lent itself well to creating an added atmosphere for me, but I found that reading The Kept was a fully enveloping experience. As Elspeth and Caleb trekked through the snow, I wrapped myself more snug in a cozy blanket. As they hunted their prey I thanked my lucky stars I was safe and sound in my own house!

Rating: 4.5/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. For more on James Scott, you can visit his website here.


Kelly said...

I love the upstate NY winter setting! I would read it for that alone, but the story itself also sounds great. I'll have to pick this one up :)

Becky LeJeune said...

I definitely recommend it, but it is a bit on the dark side. (I would love to see it as a movie!)

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Wow, I can't imagine how Caleb must have felt when he realized it was his mother that he shot ... *shudder*

Thanks for the great review for the tour!