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The Lost Highway by David Adams Richards

The Lost Highway (original 2007; edition 2008)

by David Adams Richards

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834145,226 (3.08)17
Title:The Lost Highway
Authors:David Adams Richards
Info:Anchor Canada (2008), Edition: 1st Anchor printing, Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Your library, To read

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The Lost Highway by David Adams Richards (2007)



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I've never read a murder mystery quite like this. Richards' writing style sort of ambles along, giving lilting internal monologues as characters become increasingly tortured by their own choices, all the while finding innovative ways to rationalize the morally ambiguous and the morally reprehensible. And so the reader can feel empathy for the evil doers in the story, yet still be appalled. The strength of the book is its characters. ( )
1 vote canread | Dec 13, 2010 |
Prepare to shiver at Richards’ dark portrayal of the intellectual. In The Lost Highway, Alex Chapman is an irritable and ungrateful young man, but he has a measure of intelligence. He uses this small gift to cope with bullies. It takes him to priest school, but he is insincere and eventually derides it, preferring atheism and finding his home in a liberal university. Here, right and wrong are substituted for approval and disapproval. It is a place where someone like Alex can wind up teaching ethics. The politics of the university finally circle in on Alex, and he is compelled to leave, forced to live a destitute life in a shack on his uncle’s property. The novel takes off at this point, for Alex discovers that his uncle has won a lottery and Alex believes he has the means to steal the ticket from him. Alex’s real understanding of ethics is put to the test, especially when Leo Bourque, a bully from childhood, becomes entangled in the plot. Alex is not a sociopath, and he must struggle with his conscience, or at least his self-perception of being an ethical man. One might think that atheism would make some ethical questions easier to answer, but no (of course religion never does either). It is sometimes said that all good acts can be traced to a selfish motive; with Alex, each wicked act twists its way to virtue. Through Alex, Richards takes reader on a riveting journey to the limits of ethical rationalization. Bourque is a sociopath, and the crimes and cover ups escalate with each chapter. This is the third great book I have read by Richards (Mercy Among the Children, Bay of Love and Sorrows). He is compared to Thomas Hardy and deserves it.

http://johnmiedema.ca/2009/09/07/the-lost-highway-by-david-adams-richards-book-r... ( )
1 vote jmiedema | Dec 7, 2009 |
This is probably the saddest and most broody book that I have read in some time. It does start out slow and we delve deep into Alex Chapman's mind and his motives, but about halfway through it picks up quite a bit. By that time Mr. Adams has set the stage for a great psychological suspense book that shows depravity at its very worst. Richards' plot is set in and around an unclaimed winning lottery ticket, and he shows how the thought of a large amount of money can change people's personalities entirely and how it can cause some people to step way over the line. I love the setting in around New Brunswick. It is the perfect place near this lost highway for all kinds of dark and terrible things to happen. I know there are lots of places in Canada that are in decline like this place that Richards has chosen for his setting. Rural Canada has many roads to nowhere and many people that society has forgotten that still live there. This book is a tragedy, but one that I could not put down once I got into it. ( )
  Romonko | Oct 31, 2009 |
Lost in the Lost Highway

A decent mystery thriller by David Adams Richards. If you've watched the film "A Simple Plan" with Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton, the plot for "The Lost Highway" is strikingly similar. Instead of a bag full or cash though, it's a $13 million lotto ticket.

The best part of the book is the character development. The protagonist is a fellow by the name of Alex Chapman. Richards does a great job showing us the dichotomous nature of Alex. He is an ethics professor who has a fetish for Stalin. He is kicked out of the Seminary because he steals. He is supposed to be the intellectual but is outsmarted by his loser friend Leo Bourque. The auxiliary characters in Minnie, Amy, Burton, James, and Markus Paul are all interesting and add a lot to the development of the story.

I think the plot starts out well, but gets strung out in the last third of the book when Markus is chasing down the mystery. Richards gets bogged down in the logistics of explaining who goes where and who does what and his characters flatline in their drama and development. I would've preferred if Richards simply cut out the twists and turns and got straight to the point and finished the book with more depth.

Overall, I think the book is a decent mystery thriller. It's not a gem, but certainly a good read for an afternoon or two. ( )
  bruchu | Nov 21, 2008 |
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Burton Tucker moved to the haystack and sat down in the brine of hay, and looked down across the barn and into the open, in the space beyond his house where in the sky was a cloud the shape and color of black gunpowder.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385664966, Hardcover)

What had happened, from those days until now? And why had it? And how had his life gone? And who was to blame? Or why did he think he had to blame anyone? Certainly he couldn’t even blame Mr. Roach, caught in the same turmoil as everyone believing half-truths in order to blame other people. (p. 141)

These are the forlorn thoughts of Alex Chapman, the tragic anti-hero of David Adams Richards’ masterful novel The Lost Highway. An exploration of the philosophical contortions of which man is capable, the novel tracks the desperate journey of an eternally lost and orphaned child/man who has nearly squandered his frail birthright but might yet earn some degree of redemption.

Alex spent a stunted childhood watching his gentle mother defiled by rough-handed men including Roach, his biological father. Upon his mother’s death Alex is passed into the care of his hard-nosed great-uncle Jim Chapman, nicknamed “The Tyrant” by their Miramichi community. Alex’s uncle becomes a symbol of all that he loathes. Alex distinguishes himself from this brutal masculinity that stole his mother from himby becoming a self-imposed ascetic, entering the local seminary and rehearsing his own version of piousness. But when he is tempted by the Monsignor’s request to deliver charitable funds to the bank, Alex pockets the money and flees to the home of Minnie, whom he worships and who he has learned is now pregnant by Sam Patch, a good man, but too rough in Alex’s eyes. He attempts to talk Minnie into using the money for an abortion, and it is only her refusal that sends him back to the seminary to return the money. “Do you remember if the phone rang in the booth along the highway that night?” (p. 87) asks MacIlvoy, a fellow seminarian who had gotten wind of the theft and tried to detour Alex from this path. But of course Alex had ignored the rings, as he would ignore many warnings in his tragic life.

Caught red-handed and forced to return as a prodigal son-that-never-was to his uncle’s house, Alex again flees to yet another refuge, this time to the safe moral relativism of academia, where he becomes an expert at reducing meaning to ethical dust. However, he finds himself unable to navigate the easy duplicity in which his peers are fluent, and takes an isolated and idealistic stand which causes him to be drummed out of the facultyas a figure of ridicule. A bitter and alienated Alex once again returns defeated to a shack on his uncle’s property, spending his days in the family scrapyard forging dreadful humanoid creatures out of junked metal, a modern-day Prometheus. One day he is asked by MacIlvoy, now the local priest, to create a Virgin for the church grotto. Some part of him still influenced by divinity guides his hand to create a beautiful Madonna, her face inspired by a lovely young girl he spots one day in the market. Two days later he finds out that the girl is Amy Patch, the child he urged his childhood sweetheart to abort fifteen years earlier. He will also find out that it is once again the fate of this innocent girl, at his own hands, that will determine whether he will ever experience the grace he so dearly craves.

Trudging the lost highway while mulling over his grievances as usual, Alex runs into Burton Tucker, whose own mind and body have been stunted by the brutality of his birth mother. The generally pliant Burton runs the local garage, offering lotto tickets as a bonus for oil changes. He is on his way to deliver some good news: Jim Chapman is a winner, to the tune of $13 million. Alex realizes that he could have been the one to bring Jim’s truck to Burton and receive the winning ticket, but he had refused because of the grudge he held against Jim. Once again, Alex has been thwarted by an ironic twist of fate and it is too much to bear. He decides at that moment that his uncle must never see the money, and begins a treacherous intrigue, which he justifies through the tortured ethical logic with which he has become so skilled. He unwittingly aligns himself with a very dangerous partner, Leo Bourque, the childhood bully who made his schooldays such hell, and whose days of playing cat-and-mouse with the weak Alex are not over. Their twinned descent will become deadly, marked by murder both actual and intended.

How far would any of us go to avenge a terrible wrong done to us at birth? To whom shall we assign blame? And can we achieve redemption, no matter how grievous our sins? David Adams Richards’ The Lost Highway is a taut psychological thriller that goes far beyond the genre into the worlds of Leo Tolstoy, and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, as well as classical Greek mythology, testing the very limits of humankind’s all too tenuous grasp on morality.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:15 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

At war with his great-uncle James, a man known as "The tyrant", for twenty years, Alex Chapman sees a chance for revenge when a local auto mechanic says he has just given James a winning lottery ticket.

(summary from another edition)

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