Cover image for Back roads
Title:
Back roads
Author:
O'Dell, Tawni.
Personal Author:
Edition:
[Large print edition].
Publication Information:
Thorndike, ME : Thorndike Press, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
510 pages ; 23 cm
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780786227549

9780786227624
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library X Adult Large Print - Floating collection Floating Collection - Large Print
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Summary

Summary

Harley Altmyer should be in college drinking Rolling Rock and chasing girls. Instead, he's marooned in the Pennsylvania backwoods caring for his three younger sisters -- a job that passed to him when his mother killed his abusive father and went to jail for life. Frustrated, overwhelmed, and utterly endearing, he's a guy in an impossible situation: an orphan with the responsibilities of an adult and the fiery, aggressive libido of a teenager. Then family secrets and unspoken truths collide with his youthful sexual obsession, unearthing a series of staggering surprises ...


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Harley Altmyer, a 19-year-old living in the Pennsylvania backwoods, works two jobs to support himself and three younger sisters, all orphaned when their mother is imprisoned for killing their abusive father. Harley is frustrated by his dreary, duty-filled life, resentful that his best friend is away at college and has escaped the dead-end existence of the small town. He resents his mother, who, albeit in prison, has escaped the relentless demands of a seriously dysfunctional family: oversexed Amber searches for love in every boy she meets; Misty wears as a bracelet the collar of her pet cat who died in mysterious circumstances; and Jody, only recently recovered from total withdrawal, compulsively makes to-do lists. Harley's affair with Callie Mercer, the mother of Jody's friend, marks his sexual and emotional awakening, but it won't permit an escape from family secrets. He regularly visits a state-funded psychologist but responds with sarcasm, indifference, and denial until a family crisis rewakens memories that lead him to a truth more awful than the apparent reality of his miserable life. Harley's first-person account of the deterioration of his family and his own slow-motion meltdown is harrowing. O'Dell, a native of western Pennsylvania, renders finely detailed characters and settings in a desperate and failed mining town. This is a riveting first novel of violence, incest, murder, and madness. --Vanessa Bush


Publisher's Weekly Review

Nineteen-year-old Harley is left to rear his three younger sisters after their mother is imprisoned for murdering their abusive father in this searing, hardscrabble Party of Five set in Pennsylvania mining country. Doubly resentful because his best friend is off at college, Harley spends his days slogging as a Shop Rite bagger and appliance-shop delivery person, coming home to cold cereal dinners prepared by six-year-old Jody. Harley is bitter about having to take over for his motherÄ"she still had us kids but we didn't have her"Äand he can't shake the feeling that she prefers prison to their home life; a mystery lingers around his father's death. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Amber is sleeping her way through the town's teenage boys and flaunting her body in front of Harley; middle sister Misty, once her father's favorite and his hunting companion, practices shooting. Desperate for relief, Harley finds solace in rough but exhilarating encounters with married Callie Mercer, little Jody's best friend's mother, losing his virginity to her on a muddy creek bank and reveling in her sophisticated, sensitive words. But memories are stirring in his subconscious, and erotic dreams of the Virgin Mary metamorphose into nightmarish sexual visions. In his sessions with a court-appointed therapist, Harley edges closer to understanding his family's twisted dynamic, but it is only when the horrors of the present begin to catch up with those of the past that a series of shattering truths are revealed. By then it is too late for Harley to save everyone he loves, but in sacrificing himself, however hopelessly, he introduces a note of grace. O'Dell's scorching tale touches on all the tropes of dysfunctional families, but her characters fight free of stereotypes, taking on an angry, authentic glow. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

In a small Pennsylvania town depressed by coal mine closings, a young man of 19 finds himself thrust into the role of parent. Harley has become the guardian of his three younger sisters as the result of their mother going to jail for the shooting death of their father. Each sibling finds his or her own way of coping with this family tragedy. During his regular visits with a psychotherapist Harley finds some comfort while at the same time feeling disdain for this woman. He is able to satisfy his youthful urges by beginning a series of sexual encounters with an older woman whose daughter is a playmate of his youngest sister. The characterizations are vivid, and each family member generates sympathy. Reader Dylan Baker does a satisfactory job of interpreting Harley's sense of frustration and cynicism. An absorbing novel worth purchasing for fiction collections.DCatherine Swenson, Norwich Univ. Lib., Northfield, VT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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