The Kept by James Scott

Book Review : The Kept

By James Scott

  • Publication Date: 2014-01-07
  • Genre: Literary
3.5 Score: 3.5 (From 63 Ratings)

Book Review

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 family.

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.

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. 

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User Reviews

  • Where's the plot?

    By Staynavytom
    Bored to death by page 362. Quit reading so I could find something with a plot.
  • A terrible ending!

    By Murphdawg20
    I really enjoyed the story leading up to the last "book". I feel like the ending was very rushed and I'm sure it was in part for my longing for a happy ending for the mother and son. I also was displeased with Charles' character and his part in the end as well.
  • Engaging Read

    By TrSusan
    Strange, curious compilation of characters. Couldn't put this story down!
  • Rn

    By T. Ayette
    I found the book VERY dark without much sense of redemption. The author seemed to strive to make situations and descriptions as grisly as possible. The only few light spots were Frank, the storekeeper,and the storekeeper's wife, all brief scenarios. Otherwise all seemed doom and gloom. Why would a "mother" encourage her 12 year old son to seek to try and kill crazed murderers? The outcome seems predictable and inevitable. What kind of person takes in stride discovering her family so brutally destroyed? Only an attempt to manipulate the story so the son would unknowingly shoot his mother, hence creating more gruesome fodder for this despairing tale of woe. I definitely would NOT recommend this book!
  • Disappointing Ending

    By bsbydoc
    Could not believe the story ended the way it did. Perhaps it was predictable but I felt cheated.