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Dirt Road by James Kelman
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Dirt Road

by James Kelman

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723316,498 (3.68)2
Murdo, a teenager obsessed with music, dreams of a life beyond his Scottish island home. His dad Tom has recently lost his wife and stumbles towards the future, terrified of losing control of what remains of his family life Both are in search of something as they set out on an expedition into the American South. As they travel they encounter a new world and we discover whether the hopes of youth can conquer the fears of age. Dirt Road is a major novel exploring the brevity of life, the agonising demands of love and the lure of the open road. It is also a beautiful book about the power of music and all that it can offer.… (more)
Member:hugh_f_68
Title:Dirt Road
Authors:James Kelman
Info:Canongate Books Ltd, Edition: Main
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Dirt Road by James Kelman

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Another portrait of a manchild in bleak, claustrophobic, post-industrial Scotland and/or Ireland, with a setting and atmosphere reminiscent of [Shuggie Bain], [Young Skins] and others. This time we're inside the head of 16-year-old Murdo. His sister and mother have recently died, and his father is usually hiding behind a book. The difference in this story is that it describes a trip they take to the American South, a place that's weird but less dismal.

Murdo is forever trying to make sense of things: not just the family tragedies, but also this country's racism, religiosity and close-to-the-surface violence. He takes things in as they come, without judgement. He knows that he doesn't always get it. There's a wonderful loose sentence structure, with fragments and repetitions, throughout the book that conveys his bemusement about the things he encounters.

He's also trying to figure out what he might do with his life. He's passionate about music, and a brilliant player on guitar and accordion. He meets a family of Zydeco musicians who invite him to join them on stage at a festival. His father is adamantly oblivious to this stroke of fortune. And thus begins Murdo's quest. No spoiler, but the boy achieves, if not a happy ending, a happy chance at a life he's sure he wants. (Even Shuggie Bain, whose family is much poorer and far more dysfunctional, and whose story is horrifying, gets a promising ending, after all.) ( )
  JonathanLerner | Apr 24, 2022 |
Brilliant. James Kelman puts you right inside the head of a 16-year old boy as he comes to terms with the tragic loss of his sister and mother, resents the stifling protectiveness of his grieving father and begins to discover the world for himself.

For me, it started quite slowly, but after a while I realised I couldn't put it down as the main characters revealed themselves. Murdo himself, Queen Monzee-ay, Tom, Aunt Maureen, Uncle John and others - they all came vividly to life in this skilfully written, moving story. Men aren't supposed to cry? I did!

Thanks to Canongate. Never read any James Kelman before winning this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. I definitely have some catch-up reading to do. ( )
  neal_ | Apr 10, 2020 |
I listened to the BBC abridged audio of 10, 15-minute segments. I really enjoyed this story, which was enhanced by the excellent reading by Finn Den Hertog. I'm not sure how I would like reading the complete novel, though -- I might find it slow and dragging. And I don't know why it's called "Dirt Road". ( )
  Lit_Cat | Dec 9, 2017 |
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for Kenny Glenaan, Tony slater Ling and Dirk Powell.
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It was half five in the morning when his father wakened him.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Murdo, a teenager obsessed with music, dreams of a life beyond his Scottish island home. His dad Tom has recently lost his wife and stumbles towards the future, terrified of losing control of what remains of his family life Both are in search of something as they set out on an expedition into the American South. As they travel they encounter a new world and we discover whether the hopes of youth can conquer the fears of age. Dirt Road is a major novel exploring the brevity of life, the agonising demands of love and the lure of the open road. It is also a beautiful book about the power of music and all that it can offer.

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From the Booker Prizewinning James Kelman, comes a road trip through the American South

'The truth is he didn't care how long he was going away. Forever would have suited him. It didn't matter it was America.'

Murdo, a teenager obsessed with music, wishes for a life beyond the constraints of his Scottish island home and dreams of becoming his own man. Tom, battered by loss, stumbles backwards towards the future, terrified of losing his dignity, his control, his son and the last of his family life. Both are in search of something new as they set out on an expedition into the American South. On the road we discover whether the hopes of youth can conquer the fears of age. Dirt Road is a major novel exploring the brevity of life, the agonising demands of love and the lure of the open road.

It is also a beautiful book about the power of music and all that it can offer. From the understated serenity of Kelman's prose emerges a devastating emotional power.
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