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Back Roads by Tawni O'Dell
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Back Roads (edition 2004)

by Tawni O'Dell

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1,475345,049 (3.64)28
Member:cmtusa
Title:Back Roads
Authors:Tawni O'Dell
Info:NAL Trade (2004), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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Back Roads by Tawni O'Dell

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Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
There's no doubt that Back Roads is beautifully written, and it rings as being frighteningly believable.

At the same time, perhaps because it did ring so true, a large part of me also wanted a great deal more. For the most part, I knew where it was going, I knew what to expect, and it all seemed so perfectly believable as to have been something I could have read about in the news. Granted, the voice was gritty and real, and not something you'd get in a journalistic account... but I was missing the pull that I want from fiction. It wasn't compelling simply because it was so, simply, what you would expect in the situation presented. There were a few surprises, but not enough, and there were a few moments where I felt truly connected to the characters... but not enough.

Depressing, real, and well-written? Yes. And still, I can't imagine picking up another book by the author. I read books to be transported, and for many other reasons, but not to be drawn back to earth and told that dreams are dead where you expect them to be dead. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Apr 26, 2016 |
Tawni O'Dell was born and raised in the mining region of western Pennsylvania.

"One day you're that guy, (survive high school ... you're thinking you might try to get a job at Redi-Mix concrete where your dad's worked since the beginning of time. ...at least you've got a family you can stand even if they are all sisters.) and the next day you're assigned to a social worker and a therapist and given the choice of either being a LEGAL ADULT with three DEPENDENTS or an ORPHAN with NOBODY." --From Back Roads

I found this a heartbreakingly sad look at a dysfunctional family in a Pennsylvania backwoods coal town.
Nineteen-year-old Harley is left to rear his three younger sisters after their mother is imprisoned for murdering their abusive father.
Haunting and dark, I was ill at ease reading and concluding this novel.
Is there an element of a dysfunctional family not seen in Back Roads?
I really don't know......
  pennsylady | Feb 11, 2016 |
Hurley Altmyer is a 19-year-old who has taken on the responsibility for his three younger sisters after their mother has been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for shooting their father. He is hanging on by his fingernails – working two low-paying jobs in an effort to keep their house and the family together. But he is clearly at the breaking point, totally unable to cope or even to face the truth of what has happened and is happening.

This is a dark psychological story of a family caught in a cyclone of dysfunction. It is violent and crass in places. I was caught up in Harley’s life – in his skewed view of the world, and in the downward spiral he is caught in.

I did think the book was rather unrelenting in its psychosis. Yes, O’Dell includes some scenes of tenderness, even a few of humor, but it is a powerful and dark vortex in which the Altmyer family (and the reader) is caught. Not a book for the faint of heart.
( )
1 vote BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
It's got a real bad case of first book syndrome and the women are all lousy whores, with the exception of the protagonist's six year old sister. However, Harley struggles with that all important but always overlooked question, how to be a man who isn't violent and mourns dead baby bunnies. A man who has emotions other than anger. ( )
1 vote knownever | Nov 15, 2013 |
Wonderful! Couldn't put it down! Wanted to know what Harley was figuring out about his 3 sisters, his mother and his married lover. "Written by" a 19 year old son who has taken on the responsibility of raising his 3 younger (15,10,6) sisters because their mother is in prison for murdering their father! Very illustratively written, an Oprah pick plus O'dells first novel. I highly recommend it! ( )
  camplakejewel | Oct 22, 2013 |
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For my sister, Bean
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All those times me and Skip tried to kill his little brother, Donny, were just for fun.
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Book description
Harley Atlmyer, the heartbreaking and lovable hero of Tawni O'Dells' riveting debut novel, should be in college drinking Rolling Rock and chasing girls. He should be freed from his stifling coat town, with its lack of jobs and no sense of humor. Instead, he's marooned in the Pennsylvania backwoods caring for his three beloved but unruly younger sisters. He has, at best, shaky hold on the vicissitudes of day care, mac and cheese dinners, and visits to a once-devoted mother who seems not only resigned, but glad to hand ove the reinds of motherhood to her son. As he sees it, his life is "lousy with women. All ages, shapes, sizes, and levels of purity." Frustrated, overwhelmed, and utterly endearing, he's a guy in an impossible situation: an orphan with the responsibilities of an adult and the fiery, aggresive libido of a teenager. Life is further complicated when he develops an obsession with the sexy, melancholic mother of two down the road. He wants Callie Merer so badly he fears he will explode. Family secrets and the unspoken truths long held at bay collide with his obsession, unearthing a series of staggering surprises. In the face of each unexpected family revelation and through every wrenching ordeal, the unforgettable Harley instantly wins your heart doing the best he can to hold it all together. In the end, he could never know that his endearing humor, his love for his sisters, and his bumbling heroics would redeem them all. (0-670-89418-4)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0451212452, Paperback)

Oprah Book Club® Selection, March 2000: Not since S.E. Hinton (The Outsiders) has a female novelist penned such a tough and titillating portrait of lower-class, crime-ridden manhood. Set in "beautiful, ruined" western Pennsylvania, amid Eat n' Parks and Lick n' Putts, Tawni O'Dell's Back Roads follows Harley Altmyer as he walks a raging, self-conscious line between crime and innocence. Why is he being held by the authorities, and what's he so mad about? In the recent past, it's his mother, who murdered his father and went to jail for life. In the far past, it's Dad himself: an abusive, hopeless man. In the present, it's the responsibility for his three younger sisters, which makes him fantasize about smashing their faces in until they "spit up bloody macaroni and cheese."

But Harley still has a conscience--barely. He doesn't strike his sisters; he's been trying to protect them. The oldest is sassy Amber, 16, who's having sex on the living-room couch with townies who abuse her; next is frighteningly stoic 12-year-old Misty, with eyes "a glazed brown like a medicine bottle"; the youngest is adorable Jody, who at 6 pens to-do lists with items such as "PRAY FOR DADDYS SOWL." Overburdened with the practicalities of life, and the ever-mounting losses, Harley has started seeing his own words floating in the air in front of his face. "CLOSURE. TRUTH. MOST GUYS."

This first novel opens well. O'Dell does an impeccable job of making Harley both brutal and forgivable. Here, for instance, he retreats to his basement room: "I lay there until dawn, thinking about Dad, and feeling the same useless frustration I had felt the first time I had seen him piss on a sparkling white drift of pure new snow."

But that delicacy is soon lost, and Back Roads risks becoming an overabundant affair, pitched high, with a roller-coaster trajectory. Harley's anger metamorphoses into an almost bloodthirsty lust for his sexy, middle-aged neighbor, which stirs up myriad forbidden family secrets. Misty, it turns out, has been hiding something. Amber revolts. And even Jody's scribbles turn malevolent. While the writing is good throughout, the tension and plotting assume an unpleasant adolescent posture--bodice-ripping passion and mordant gloom combined. Nonetheless, O'Dell's assured and touching portrait of her protagonist emerges unscathed. You will likely remember luckless, fated Harley Altmyer long after his tsunamic tale has receded. And no matter what the judge decides, you will understand why this impoverished, angry young man was probably the most innocent one of all. --Jean Lenihan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:50 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Novel about a dysfunctional family in a Pennsylvania coal-mining town. The mother is in jail for killing the father and the four children are on their own. They are supported by the eldest, Harley Altmyer, 20, who is having an affair with the mother of a his sister's best friend.… (more)

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