Book Review - Jackie K Cooper
REDEMPTION ROAD by John Hart
The current trend in publishing seems to be for an author to churn out three or four books a year. At least it is the path taken by writers such as James Paterson, Danielle Steel and Stuart Woods. Other authors calmly present us with one new story a year. Then there is John Hart, a very talented writer who has not had a new novel in five years. Hart now finds himself the victim of the "John who" syndrome which is caused by the out of sight, out of mind experience.
Hart has written a new book, REDEMPTION ROAD and it faces two obstacles. They are (1) does anyone remember who he is, and (2) does the new book meet the high bar of talent established by his previous stories. Before he went "missing" Hart achieved quite a bit of success with a string of books titled DOWN RIVER, THE LAST CHILD, THE KING OF LIES and IRON HOUSE. Yes, five years ago John Hart was riding high.
Now he is back and the questions about of his talent are answered with REDEMPTION ROAD. His talent hasn't dissipated but rather has been on hiatus. REDEMPTION ROAD is as good as any of his previous novels and in some cases even better. His grasp of plot is still phenomenal, his creation of characters is still amazing, and his way with words is still magnificently acute. In this book he writes with the same southern melancholia style of Conroy and McCullers, which is not an easy thing to do.
This new book is Hart's most complex, yet it flows easily through the reader's mind. Again the style of his writing enables the layers of plot to sift into understandable words and phrases which guide the reader to understanding. The characters of Elizabeth Black and Adrian Wall appear early on in the story and have a physical and emotional link that is followed through the pages of the book. Theirs is not a simple love story but rather a tale of need and fellowship.
There are murders in this book of the most gruesome kind. Black and Wall are exposed to some of humanities coarsest players. She has possibly murdered two people, and he is getting out of prison thirteen years after being convicted of murdering a woman he knew. And these are the heroes of the book. They are two lost souls wandering down the road of life without a clear destination in mind. The only question being where on this road can they find redemption.
One slight error in the book is giving one of the most beloved characters the sobriquet of "Crybaby". The man to whom this name is attached is an elderly lawyer for whom the community in the story has the utmost affection. It is hard to believe that under any circumstances they would continue to call him "Crybaby". Sorry, that just rang false for me.
All else about this story rings true. It possesses tremendous depth as it reveals the isolation a wounded heart can feel. It shows understanding in the emotions of rage and revenge. It shows the curative blessings of a redemptive soul. That is a lot to pack into a story but Hart has the heart and stamina to make it all work.
John Hart is back and better than ever with REDEMPTION ROAD. Stick out your thumb, flag him down and join him on this amazing journey. It will be the ride of a lifetime.
REDEMPTION ROAD is published by Thomas Dunne Books. It contains 432 pages and sells for $27.99.
Jackie K Cooper