Read Back Roads by Tawni O'Dell Online


Harley Altmyer should be in college drinking Rolling Rock and chasing girls. He should be freed from his closed-minded, stricken coal town, with its lack of jobs and no sense of humor. Instead, he's constantly reminded of just how messed up his life is.With his mother in jail for killing his abusive father, Harley is an orphan with the responsibilities of an adult and theHarley Altmyer should be in college drinking Rolling Rock and chasing girls. He should be freed from his closed-minded, stricken coal town, with its lack of jobs and no sense of humor. Instead, he's constantly reminded of just how messed up his life is.With his mother in jail for killing his abusive father, Harley is an orphan with the responsibilities of an adult and the fiery, aggressive libido of a teenager. Just nineteen years old, he's marooned in the Pennsylvania backwoods caring for his three younger sisters, whose feelings about him range from stifling dependence to loathing. And once he develops an obsession with the sexy, melancholic mother of two living down the road, those Victoria's Secret catalogs just won't do the trick anymore. He wants Callie Mercer so badly he fears he will explode. But it's the family secrets, the lies, and the unspoken truths that light the fuse and erupt into a series of staggering surprises, leaving what's left of his family in tatters. Through every ordeal, the unforgettable Harley could never know that his endearing humor, his love for his sisters, and his bumbling heroics would redeem them all.Funny and heartbreaking, Tawni O'Dell's pitch-perfect characters capture the maddening confusion of adolescence and the prickly nature of family with irony and unerring honesty. Back Roads is a riveting novel by a formidable new talent."One day you're that guy who's happy he managed to survive high school and get that almighty piece of paper, and you're thinking you might try to get a job at Redi-Mix concrete where your dad's worked since the beginning of time. And at least you've got a family you can stand even if they are all sisters....

Title : Back Roads
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780451212450
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 343 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Back Roads Reviews

  • Jen
    2019-05-24 02:43

    Back roads meet backwards. This is a story of a disturbingly dysfunctional family. 19 year old Harley is a country boy, raising 3 younger sisters on account his mother is in jail for the murder of his father. Hormones running amok, sanity on the edge, an obsession with an older woman, mix in an abusive upbringing and this is formula for self destruction.The transformation from child to man happens with the delayering of lies that reveal truths: ugly ones. He is in a constant tormented struggle with what he knows is right with what has happened in the past. A coming of age story where good trumps over evil at the cost of self sacrifice. This was an engaging read. I like O'Dell's writing style and character development. Although her debut, I found it better than her latest release, Angels Burning. 4*

  • karen
    2019-05-24 23:54

    i have developed a real taste for literature from this region lately. and that might be the problem; why i didn't love this book the way danaaaaa does. all of the other books i have read (and i am using the term "region" pretty loosely to encompass mostly appalachia, but blurring around the edges of appalachia-proper a little) have followed a pretty consistent speech pattern and tone that this one strays from. am i being sexist to point out that this is the only woman i have read writing this kind of material? and maybe the things i admire - the succinctness of the prose and the very barebones dialogue that masks some huge concepts are a regional idiosyncrasy that female writers value less? i would love some argument to this, because i know this can't be true.this is her nine-year-old: "but i didn't see bitterness or self-pity or some warped nostalgic wistfulness in his face. what i saw was something like pride but pride without ego, something like acceptance but acceptance without ever being allowed to consider any other options"this just doesn't ring true as a nine-year-old observation. and - yes - the character is recalling the incident as a nineteen-year-old, but this and some other rather advanced psychological observations are being presented as having been acknowledged by a nine-year-old, and that just doesn't mesh for me.even as a nineteen-year-old, it wouldn't work, not for this nineteen-year-old. and i am not saying that he needs to be an idiot, but the reality of his situation is that he works two jobs, goes to the shrink in his spare time, and is raising three younger siblings in the wake of his family's tragedy. i just don't buy a boy of his age, background, and situation waxing philosophical about art - from having seen some notecard reproductions - and having such sophisticated epiphanies, all the while experiencing hallucinations and blackouts as well as having his sexual awakening. meditating on the meaning of art is inessential - it is unrealistic to have this character speculating on the divergence of gender roles in a post-lapsarian world - this is an intellectual luxury. were you ever a nineteen-year-old boy living hand-to-mouth mostly concerned with who would pay the bills and why your mom killed your dad?? is this how you spent time thinking??:"her eyes turned a sandblasted gray as if she had made them ready for me to carve into them whatever horrible image i chose"."a gray mist had settled over everything, absorbing the weak morning light, and giving the air substance. i stuck my bare arm out into it and brought it back covered in shimmer. i breathed it in deeply, letting its feather weight fill my lungs and roll over my tongue. it tasted sweet and empty like purity should".and i am not saying that poverty should go hand in hand with inarticulate or unsophisticated speech, but this seems indulgent and inappropriate. you can have something be poetic and still ring true to the dialect of the region. ron rash, cormac mccarthy, castle freedman jr, daniel woodrell all function perfectly well within the confines of terse sentences that explode with meaning and they make sentences that resonate without sounding forced: "gun's only good when it's the only gun".that is one of my favorite sentences ever.and i could fill the page with mccarthy examples. and even nick cave in and the ass saw the angel - an australian, writing in a dialect that is occasionally sloppy, makes it realistic-sounding because of the biblical nature of the narrator's speeches. they are wildly overblown, but the kid is a) crazy, b) full of a mission of avenging angeldom, c) fucking crazy - so the hifalutin' language works, especially in a character that, being mute, can only express himself in his head, so the contrast works exceptionally well. daniel woodrell makes such a believable character of ree in winter's bone; in the way she is raising her two younger brothers by herself, in the advice she gives:"never ask for what ought to be offered"."don't fight if you can help it. but if one of you gets whipped by somebody both of you best come home bloody, understand?"she is tough and matter-of-fact and she never shrinks from what is necessary. but it is all done, not with resignation, never like she is giving something up; she is simply practical and does what needs doing. and she never once talks about art.but i have strayed from my point.i can see why oprah likes it. she loves the dysfunctional, depressing families, with a soupçon of incest. and she thinks women will like it too. and she is probably right, only this woman has been spoiled with too many similar books that hit all my personal buttons.the book is not at all bad - the descriptions of the landscape are wonderful - i love the coal seeping through the ground to blacken the salt licks, and the deer being drawn to them despite their slowly being killed by them. the author is from the region, and she does a really good job of building the scenery, but the people sometimes seem either like caricatures (slutty, looking-for-love-and-comfort amber) or just too flowery in speech.but i was never bored, and even though i could tell where it was going, it was still a good read.

  • Sammy
    2019-04-30 18:42

    Let's just say one thing: this is one fucked up family. If you decide to read this book, brace yourself, seriously, the Altmyer's are fucked up. But for some reason, you still like them.There's so much that happens in this story that keeps you reading I can't say much without giving it away. For a first novel O'Dell does an extremely good job. Her writing is raw and real which helps add to the mood and characters of the book.One thing I liked about O'Dell's style was that instead of constantly describing the overall pictures of things, she finds minute details, idiosyncrasies in characters, flaws in settings, to focus on instead. It's fascinating and beautiful at the same time.Like I said earlier, there are so many surprises that pop up throughout the book to rehash the plot and what I liked about the story and didn't like would give too much away and probably keep you from reading the story. It's these surprises that really keep the story moving and keep you reading.

  • Kathy
    2019-05-11 18:53

    This is my take on Oprah books: really bad things happen to people who are already suffering from other bad things and the end is never a happy one. In fact, they're often icky endings.Woody loaned me Back Roads and I read through it in one sick day last week. The story is told from the point of view of Harley, a 19 year old boy, whose Mother is in prison for killing his Father. Harley's left with raising his three younger sisters. There's abuse, murder, incest, adultery, mental illness...yep, a perfect Oprah book.I have to admit I was thoroughly engrossed while reading this. I sympathized with Harley and it was painful to see what was happening to him and around him. Of course, it being an Oprah book, I wanted to take a shower after I was done to get the Ick feeling to go away.

  • Robert Beveridge
    2019-04-30 23:32

    Tawni O'Dell, Back Roads (Viking, 2000)I find the whole thing incredibly amusing.Had a man written this book, word for word, the character of Harley Altmeyer would no doubt be blazoned on the front as "an unstoppable sociopath about to explode" (fill in the correct number of exclamation points, depending on era and author). Instead, the back cover blurb calls him "wonderfully touching." Oh, please.Thank heaven Tawni O'Dell is a much better writer than her blurbist, because Harley Altmeyer is the least likable hero I've run across since Michael Moorcock decided an anorexic albino with a big black sword sounded like a good idea. Note I didn't say antihero there; Harley Altmeyer is certainly the hero of this book in that, while O'Dell keeps him so unlikable he gets nauseating at times, we never stop feeling sympathy for him.Altmeyer is on the brink of his twentieth birthday, and as we open he's sitting in the box in the local police station being grilled by three cops for killing his girlfriend-- who just happens to be the thirty-four-year-old wife of the next-door neighbor. Not terribly surprising, the cops muse, given his roots; Harley's mother was convicted of killing his father a couple years previous, and is now sitting in prison in Indiana, PA (I point this out because for the first hundred fifty pages I wondered how they could drive from Pennsylvania to Indiana in two hours-- and I spent over half my life living less than an hour from Indiana, PA. Obviously a truly memorable place). Harley spends about two hundred fifty pages spinning out his tale, and it's a doozy. After his mom iced his dad, he was dead and she was in jail, and the task of raising his three younger sisters fell squarely on his shoulders. Nineteen, saddled with all the bills, working two jobs, and having to raise three sisters, ranging in age from six to sixteen. It's not exactly a Frank Capra film. And Harley, whose love/hate relationship with all women borders on the psychotic, is in no way going to be mistaken for Jimmy Stewart (actually, I saw Giovanni Ribisi, circa his memorable X-Files appearance, playing this guy).If you've got half a brain and have read enough books along these lines, you've probably got half of it figured before you open the front cover. But O'Dell's writing is so thoroughly disingenuous, and Harley (the very essence of the unreliable narrator!) is so straightforward and quasi-logical that he's completely believable. And so, despite the general predictability of the plot points, they still hit with a roundhouse.The tendency, of course, is to compare this with the other novels in the Oprah stable, but it pulls me in a different direction; there's more here that invites comparison with Ian McEwan's weepingly good first novel, The Cement Garden (and not just the overall plot, either). While McEwan has turned into something of a washed-out pansy since he hit us over the head with that particular cement block, I still have high hopes for O'Dell. This is stark, simple, minimal, easy to read, compelling, with some of the strongest characterization I've come across in years, and somehow the revelations that just kind of wander through the last fifty pages (no big emotional revelatory scenes here) still manage to surprise, not to mention tug at the heartstrings.Oprah found a good'un here, that's for sure. Let's just hope O'Dell doesn't end up a washed-out pansy who moves to England for the sole purpose of getting short-listed for the Booker Prize. *** 1/2

  • Dan
    2019-05-17 00:36

    I have to admit that the blurb is deceiving this time. From the blurb, you wouldn't be able to tell how great the book is without at least reading the first chapter, it just pulls you in and you'll wanna find out more. Back Roads is about a 19 year old boy named Harley Altmyer who has to take care of his three younger sisters after their caring mom has been sent to jail for killing their abusive father. The book is not about how he's surviving in life though, but about love as well, as a key point to the book is that he lusts for a mother of two down the road of his home. As the story progresses unbelievable things seems to progress and the shocking truth is revealed at the end, the truth about the father's death. At first to me it seems like the book has no point, it's just talking about some crappy life of a kid who's suffering because he's at lost of parents and that he has to live on his own while taking care of his 3 sisters, yet there is more to it that meets the eyes. This book reminds me of the Catcher in the Rye as how the situations are differently yet the main character have the biggest issue with everyone else in the book. Either way i think this was one of the best books i read in my life, I recommend it to everyone. *Warning!!* This book is pretty mature, don't read if you can't handle grusome description or sex scenes or incestuous themes.

  • Suzanne
    2019-05-22 21:49

    I don't usually comment on my books, or give a review, but this book was great. Finished it in 2 days because I could not put it down. It's been a while since I was that into what I was reading. It's rough, raw, compelling, heartbreaking and you can't help connecting with the characters. This story will stay with me for some time.

  • Asghar Abbas
    2019-05-12 20:33

    Never before I've read characters so visceral, resilient, strong, so brave, and yet so utterly self-destructive; bent on harming themselves when they can forgive each other. This was an Oprah Book Club choice, but I’ll forgive that.This is without a doubt hands down, absolutely one of my favorite, favorite books. Of all Time. In fact, this one here is right up there next to Fools Die by Mario Puzo, on the very top. It's so haunting, beautifully written. The characters so real that I feel for them every time I read it. I could pick this up any time, any where, and it will move me just the same, every single time. It is fallow like that. But the emotional impact, oh boy, remains the same. Devastating. Let's try a sample of her writing shall we, just a taste. Okay : (SPOILERS DOWN BELOW):It wasn't fair he got the chance and I didn't. I wouldn't have wasted it. If I had known Mom was going to kill Dad that night as I went off to Skip's house to drink contraband beers and bullshit about horny college chicks, I would've stopped first and cleared some things up. I would've asked him why he didn't like me. I would've apologized for being such a disappointment to him. And I would've told him I loved him- because I did- in some joyless, unsatisfying way that hurt instead of healed, but I knew it was still love. ---------In my hands right now, this book feels as vague and familiar as home; comfortable - oh how I love 2006. For a year can be be home, too. But I love Another now and for another. And God, I am tempted to reread this immediately, at once but no, I'll just read one of her newer novels sitting emptily on my shelf. I can't recommend this book enough, in fact I would urge everyone to read this pronto. Don't miss out on this. Please feel the urgency. Tawni O'Dell is a remarkably talented woman in the same vein as Janet Fitch, she is not only a favorite author of mine, but also one of the best people in the known world.I wish could give Back Roads a thousand stars, but already a thousand suns have gone into making this one.Let this devastate you. Let it.

  • Patricia
    2019-05-19 02:00

    I bought Back Roads while I was on vacation in Florida. I bought the hard cover from the clearance shelf at Barnes & Noble for $5! I started reading it and couldn't put it down! I hadn't read a good book like that in a long time! Tawni O'Dell reminded me why I loved to read! I actually felt guilty that I only paid $5 for a hard cover version of such an amazing book! I loved it so much that I wrote to Tawni and asked her if she would sign it for me if I sent it to her with return postage paid. She agreed. It so happened that I vacationed not far from where she lives. I asked her if I could meet her someplace so she could sign the books (I bought two more copies, one for my best friend and another for my daughter's teacher). She agreed to meet me at Denny's. When I called her to tell her I was on my way, she invited me to go to her home! I felt humble knowing I would be in the home and presence of such a great writer! She greeted me at the door and welcomed me into her home. We sat and talked over coffee and pastry. She signed my books, personalizing each. I left there knowing that I would read every book she ever writes, and that I would not mind paying full price for her books! Back Roads made me laugh, cry, sigh, shake my head and feel like I was right there as I was reading. The characters are real; you can relate to their experiences. Tawni brings you into the book! Make sure you start reading when you won't have to worry about stopping! Therefore, do not start reading it on your lunch break at work! You will probably be compelled to call your boss and say you had to go home during lunch and can't return! Enjoy!

  • Chip
    2019-05-26 21:52

    I had a hard time believing that Harley would continue to go to see the therapist while working two jobs and not having a dime to spare... not that the therapy was costing anything except time, but it didn't add up other than as a plot device to explain that he was nuts (in case it escaped the reader's attention). The real story should have been told from Amber's point of view. There were complex issues between Amber, Misty and their mother that Harley would never understand, and that complexity deserved to be explored. In many ways this felt like another tired reaffirmation of Appalachia stereotypes. The introduction of impressionist art somehow hinted that this book might rise above the jokes, but in the end it wasn't enough. There's Appalachia, with everyone in the country making fun of them, proving again they are worthy of the treatment. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth as a reader, and explains in many ways why the author hasn't been able to follow up her initial success with another (that, and the lack of Oprah's marketing support). Beach reading at best. Unless someone gives me a compelling reason, I won't read this author again.

  • Rebecca McNutt
    2019-04-25 19:39

    Back Roads was an alright novel but there was something a little creepy about it. A teenage boy in love with an adult woman? And he says he could "violate her a hundred different ways"? ...Disturbing. Aside from that, the story of a kid struggling to keep his siblings from falling into the foster care system was very interesting.

  • Natalie Richards
    2019-05-15 01:57

    Engrossing, painful and raw.

  • Dennis
    2019-05-11 20:54

    After reading so many women comment about men writing in women's voices, it's now time to admit that women writing as men can completely miss the boat. Harley didn't sound like any guy I knew, nor grew up nor WAS in my life. His sentiments rang completely hollow for me; rather he sounded more like how a woman would like a teenage boy to be. The most interesting character, Misty, went almost completely voiceless and the ending was laughable, as was most of the book. easily the worst of Oprah's Book Club.

  • Conniebell
    2019-05-22 19:40

    Okay so this book...I went into it not expecting anything - it's not normally the book I'd read. It contains some very mature topics so if you're not comfortable reading those then this book really isn't for you!So I decided to pick this book up purely because Jennifer Morrison is going to be playing Callie in the film adaptation and she's been talking about it for a while. I can't wait to see how the film adaptation turns out and how Jen portrays Callie on screen. This book honestly made me so shocked, angry, sad and confused (In a good way)! I've got to say the story was messed up aha! I'm still not over the ending honestly I had to drop my book and silently scream into my hands!!

  • Teryl
    2019-05-09 01:44

    I couldn't put this book down, which is crazy because it is so disturbing. Harley is border line crazy due to his upbringing, but I found myself feeling for him. I highly recommend this book, be warned, it is very dark and disturbing at parts.

  • Miss Kim
    2019-05-05 23:36

    First thoughts:1. I can’t believe I picked up an Oprah recommended book.2. Dysfunction3. Incest? Didn’t see that coming.4. Thanks to my good friend, Teryl, for bringing it to my attention.This is a very fast paced story, and I was able to tear through it in a few hours. I felt for Harley, and all of his sisters. I can’t imagine being 17, mom killing pop, and being left to care for your three younger sisters.I’m tired, and I suppose this not really a ‘review’ per se—just my feelings.I didn’t understand Callie’s attraction to Harley. What was her motivation for the affair with the guy 15 yrs younger? He didn’t come off as particularly attractive (he rarely showered), he was dirt poor, he didn’t express himself very well. Hmm… well all I can assume is that that she felt sorry for him and wanted to make him feel good. Huh. I disliked the ending. I don’t think we are meant too, after all not all stories have happy endings.

  • Bev
    2019-05-17 02:45

    I'm having a hard time rating this book. It's incredibly dark and morose, but the author does an excellent job taking us into the head of a 19-year-old small town boy who has been dealt an extremely tough hand--taking care of three sisters after his mother has murdered his father. I really felt for Harley, whose family life was so compromised that his attempts to rise above it were doomed from the start. Nevertheless, I had hopes that Harley could somehow survive, perhaps get away and start a new life for himself. His story is heartbreaking and tragic.

  • Jessi
    2019-05-08 02:48

    I have said it before and I will say it again "damn these first time bitches!" Tawni O'Dell wrote one hell of a story as her first novel,way to go!I would recommend this to anyone, which normally with a story this dark I would be reluctant or would warn about the subject matter,but this is so well done. Harley is a 19 year old boy, who has to take care of his three younger sisters,Amber,Misty and Jody, after their mother has been sent to jail for killing their abusive father. Harley works 2 jobs and has no friends and has not seen his mother since she went to jail. The moral of the story in this is that parents (especially mothers) need to protect their children,O'Dell even points out that this basic rule is apparent in the animal kingdom and should be respected and followed. When it is not the result is that children are messed up and messed up kids do messed up things and any of those messed up things you can think of happen in this book. They are making a movie of Back Roads,Starring Andrew Garfield and Jennifer Garner,I think this is fantastic casting and I really don't care for Garner normally, but I think she will be perfect as Callie.I don't know if I would enjoy seeing this as a film thou, reading it is somthing different all together.Quick Thing : I wear glasses for distance so if I am in the car or watching a movie I have them on otherwise not so much. Apparently I may need to wear them more. I carried this book around for a few days(over a week) and then my five year old said "theres is a naked lady on your book" I said "no theres a birch tree I think" on further inspection that is a naked lady on my book and not a tree ...bloody hell. All the progress I thought I making with respectable book covers is out the window and wasn't even aware. Awesome.

  • Shannon
    2019-04-30 20:32

    This book had it all. Heartache, heartbreak, humor, and horror. So much has been written about Harley, the main character of the book, things that make him out to be a horrible guy but the thing I found most evident about him was pretty simple. He missed his mom and longed for her presence in his life. Maybe not even his mom but "a" mom, any mom. When he asked the neighbor to meet him at the mining office he asked her to bring the stuff to make smores. Earlier in the book his little sister was talking about Callie making them smores and Harley almost seemed jealous. Through out the book all of Harley's demons and battles seem to stem from the fact that he resents not having a mom to do the things a mom should be doing. Not just for his sisters but for him as well.This book is very well written and has many lines that are psychologically profound with regards to the characters."...I wanted her to tell me it was true. To tell me she knew about it. To speak the unspeakable. To prove the unbelievable. It would make dad more deserving of what he got. It would make mom more justified in what she had done. It would take away some of my own guilt. It would be all Misty's fault now. Mom hadn't killed him because he beat me...."I read a review earlier from someone who said Harley was too messed up and "hick" to have that type of self inflection. I think a young man who has lead the kind of life Harley has lead is going to have a very astute ability to self analyze.Bottom line...I liked the book because of all the psychological nuances that were there to be explored. I think this is an excellent Book Club book because it leaves the reader wanting to discuss it long after the last page has been turned.

  • Theresa
    2019-04-29 22:36

    I have had this book on my to read shelf for a long time. I passed it over so often I honestly lost track. I decided FINALLY!! I was going to read this book before the end of the year. I think the fact that it was an Oprah book club selection had me a bit turned off. I have not had good luck with the relatively recent Oprah picks. However, this one was fantastic! It was such a great character study into dysfunction that I could not look away from the proverbial train-wreck that was unfolding in front of my eyes. Yes, one could argue that some of the minor characters were not fully drawn and there were some gaping holes in timeline and motivations BUT I'm prepared to overlook them because otherwise this was just good! Really good! I cannot wait to read my way through the author's other books. I've already added them to my to-read list AND purchased one with Christmas money. (My family knows what to give me!! Haha)

  • Karyn Niedert
    2019-05-19 21:34

    This was Tawni O'Dell's first published novel (I think) and it commanded praise from Oprah Winfrey as a Oprah Book Club selection, various accolades, etc.This was my LEAST favorite of O'Dell's novels. I thought it was depressing as hell. If this is the first O'Dell book you pick up and think, "Uugh, this sucks!" then try one of her other books. "One of Us", which was released in 2014, is excellent. "Fragile Beasts" and "Coal Run" are also terrific options.Bottom line, don't take THIS book as typical of Tawni O'Dell's writing and storylines. She's written and published MUCH better.

  • Kelly
    2019-05-02 22:31

    dark. darkdarkdarkdarkdark. it's the kind of book that...when you read can hear the dripdrop of a lonely limestained faucet in the background. you won't love the protagonist...but you can't hate him, either. i can't explain exactly why I am giving this book 4 stars...other than to say that it was good enough to make me remember the protagonist...make me think about him after I turned the last page. I can't ask for much more...why isn't it a 5 star'er? well, I'm just an amateur. regardless...please, don't read this book if you aren't willing to lose a little faith in humanity.

  • Alison
    2019-05-23 18:35

    Dark and brutal. Goes to and lingers in places most writers/books refuse to. Incredible feat for a woman to write in first-person as a 20-year-old man/boy with a violent streak he can only barely control. I'm close to speechless.

  • Kit★
    2019-05-25 18:50

    I found this book ages ago on one of my Goodwill trips, and it sounded intriguing, so I went ahead and picked it up. Then it sat forgotten in my TBR cupboard for awhile, until yesterday when I was rooting around in there, it called to me, and demanded I read it. So I did. I was pretty much hooked from the get-go, I immediately felt for Harley and his sisters, their whole situation. But it quickly devolved into me not being able to put the book down, it was like a train-wreck I just couldn't tear my eyes away from. I liked the character of Harley, even if he was kind of an ass most of the time, and kinda crazy the rest of the time. I mean, I could understand his confusion, and frustration, and anger, but he was still kind of weird. I don't know, I know if I would've been in his shoes, I wouldn't have acted anything like the way he did. But maybe it's because I'm a girl, and he's a teenage boy, and I'm sure they think in a different way, see the world different. Or not. I'll never know, because I've never been a teenage boy. It seemed like he had a real hard time owning his responsibilities. At times he reminded me of my guy's 21 year old loser son, not wanting to do anything but drink beer, not understanding that the world doesn't revolve around him. And on that subject, when Harley drank, it said he drank like 3 beers and was falling down drunk. Um, ok, even when I was 14 and drinking for the first time, it took more than three drinks to make me drunk. I certainly wouldn't have fallen face first off of a porch after 3 beers. So, I don't know, either the author hasn't had much experience with alcohol, or the kid is just meant to be a supreme lightweight. I mean, I can drink a 6 pack and be hardly buzzed. So... That was just a weird little thing that just seemed off to me. Maybe it's just me, maybe there are people out there who get ridiculously trashed off of three beers. Not a big deal in terms of the story or anything. In fact, this was a really good story. Not good in terms of characters I loved, and a great adventure or anything like that, but it was good in how it made me feel for these characters, even when they were making me sick. And I gotta give props to the author for the excellent way she had of giving me the feel for the area where the story takes place, the beautiful woods and hills mixed with the run-down decay of a town where coal used to be king, the gloomy sort of feeling the whole place had, kinda run down almost, the world was moving on. I enjoyed that, and will look for more books by this author because of it. Sometimes I didn't think the characters were acting believable. Like, for instance, Harley's state-mandated psychiatrist visits. He seemed to freak out and literally run out of them like every time he went. Around here, that wouldn't fly. If the state says you must visit a shrink, then it's mandatory that you show up, or the cops show up at your house to pay a little check-up visit. So, the fact that he was freaking out and running away kinda bothered me, as the shrink never really pursued the matter, she just waited for him to come back the next month. Also, Harley's own reaction to a lot of things was weird. Especially the crazy stuff going on in his family. His 16 year-old sister Amber comes onto him at every opportunity, wearing see-through lace nighties around the house, flashing him her g-strings... His 12 and 6 year-old sisters talk about how they should hook up to ease their stress like it's normal and ok. I think if my sister was slipping into my bed naked in the middle of the night and rubbing herself on me, I'd be knocking her slutty ass out. Freakin' sicko. And she was like psycho! If anyone needed to be in therapy it was Amber and Misty (the 12 year-old). When Amber finds out Harley's having an affair with the mom of one of the 6 year-old's friends, she screams and cries about it for days like she caught her boyfriend cheating on her, mascara running down her face and all that stuff. Plus her run-away attempts, her penchant for boys who use her for sex and hit her... She coulda used some therapy. As for Misty, she was the one that really bugged me. At first I felt for her, I could understand her sadness at losing her dad, the whole awkward stage she's in at her age. But then it turns out that she's just as psycho, if not worse than the others. When the truth comes out that she killed her pet kitten, the kitten whose collar she wears constantly that everyone thought had been killed by a hunter, I was disgusted. How can anyone hurt an innocent little baby kitten? Especially a little girl. Girls are supposed to be nice and good, not psycho killers who get joy out of killing kittens and gutting deer. Then the bigger truth comes out, that she's the one who shot their dad, and it was only an accident in the way that she was really aiming for their mom, and hit the dad instead. And the reason why? Because she was jealous that the dad loved the mom. Yea, in that way. I mean, isn't it bad enough that the dad beat on all the kids? Then you gotta have one of 'em who actually wants it, plus wants more, and dirtier? Sick. And I didn't like how nothing happened to her in the end. Someone should've tried harder to see this kid get some help. Instead she went to live with her aunt and uncle and little sister, and that was it. Little psycho should've been locked up, and the key thrown away. I'm not fond of this new age 'let's give therapy to psycho killers' stuff. I think psychos should be locked up, why should tax payer dollars go to pay for them to get therapy? I can't even afford therapy for myself, why would I want to pay for it for a killer (or a child molester, or a rapist)? Just lock 'em up and keep 'em that way, don't give them talk therapy and release them back into society! But, I digress, as my opinion on that really doesn't have to do with the story, lol. And I haven't even mentioned Callie, the mom Harley finds himself having an affair with. She had her own issues, and I would've liked to get to know her a lot better. I couldn't believe some of the stuff she did though. Sure, sneaking away to the woods to bang the boy was ok (well, not morally but, y'know what I'm saying), but then he comes over to her house while her little son is outside playing and they go inside 'to get some Kool-Aid' and end up banging on the kitchen table, all while the kid's nearby. Then Harley comes over at night, while her husband's home, and demands to see her, and they go out and sit in his truck, within view of the house, and she goes down on him, and they make out. While her husband and kids are right freakin' there, right in the house, like 30ft away! This whole story was a hot mess I couldn't leave, I found myself wanting more, more details, more craziness, more background, more. I probably could've read another hundred pages or even more. But I did like it, don't get me wrong, I kinda liked it a lot. I think I'll probably hang onto this book, give it another read in the future. And I'd really like to read more by this author, give her another try or two. An odd story, but interesting and attention-grabbing. I did kind of like the end, when the truth came out about who killed Callie, and at least a little justice was handed out. Sure Harley's in a mental home, but I really think that's for the best, until he learns to cope, and accept the things that happened and gain some strength or something. Weird, but still good :)

  • Rhonda Cotsell
    2019-05-23 19:31

    Viewed through the thoughts and experiences of a 19 yr boy old left to care for his three sisters after his mother is imprisoned for murdering his father. Main theme is family violence and the horrendous effect it has on the children trapped within it. I couldn't put it down. Its not in your face, gruesome or aiming to shock, though it does of course - most of it is the sad, scary, dreary, frightening relentless daily reality of living in a family where a convincing enough form of love coexists with a brutality from which there is no escape. By love I mean the mother loves her children and the children have some strong and healthy ties to one another - but the mother does not protect or remove her children and the childrens' relationships with one another become twisted and destructive.

  • Jeffrey Taylor
    2019-04-28 21:35

    I'm conflicted. The book was a page turner. Tawni O'Dell has a fine writing style, great sense of plot development and character construction, for the most part. She does a great job of creating the mental world of a troubled, young adult and his experience of sexuality. Has an interviewer ever asked her how she developed this skill? Were it not for some serious flaws I would have given it a five star review. I like the metaphor of Callie Mercer stripping his father' coat off of Harley before one of their sexual encounters. O'Dell really took me inside the mind of a man child who suffered abuse from his father and could only express emotion through fantasies of violence which he struggled to control. But she lost me in chapter 17. Without giving away plot details that will erode the suspense which is essential for enjoyment of this novel, Callie Mercer's behavior is not that of a mature woman with a frustrated marriage and a developing affair with a younger man. It is a young man's wet dream. I laughed out loud when Harley drives to her home on a dark and stormy night. We get it Tawni. Brilliant. But when Callie's husband tends to a children's squabble while his scantily dressed wife runs out into the rain with Harley to his truck and she lays out for him to collect his birthday present, I lost my sense of reality. I thought it would have made more sense if Harley had been hallucinating. It seemed as if O'Dell had been writing with one outcome in mind, lost the thread of her story and changed the ending. Or at that point had not yet developed her ending. The last third of that chapter added nothing and could have been deleted. That would have made a significantly improved story.This is a story for adults, complete with detailed descriptions of hot, sweaty sex. The plot is engrossing; it will hold the reader's interest. It's solid entertainment. Back Roads

  • Lynne Spreen
    2019-04-26 23:59

    One of the most amazing aspects of O'Dell's writing is that she leads you to draw one conclusion about a character, and then slowly feeds you evidence that you've misjudged. I think that's what I enjoyed most about this story, the slow reveal leading to the ultimate conclusion. And then I'm left hating the people I respected, and respecting the people I hated. Awesome writing!I'm done with the book but can't stop thinking about it, or the author. She actually grew up in Indiana PA, where this novel is based. As a writer who grew up in a gritty place, I've wondered how to write about the amazing stories I accumulated there. O'Dell has done it, and she's writing another one. I respect her for that. I gave Back Roads 4 stars because of VERY strong 3-dimensional characters, dramatic tension and suspense, a hero I could root for - although anti-hero might be the better term - and a satisfying conclusion. I respected the way the author was able to show Harley, the main character, falling apart under the strain. His internal dialogue revealed such incredibly violent tendencies (which he never acted out - another major victory for this pathetically heroic young man), and those tendencies were backstory! He didn't get that way from the inciting incident. He and his sisters grew up in this situation, and they all reacted to it in different ways.I always like to hunt for themes in a story I enjoy, and in this one I saw the theme of responsibility accepted and shirked. Too much or too little taken on, and the results of that decision. Another theme was the question of Stockholm Syndrome - did Harley have it or not? Did his mom? Who was the tormentor, and who the tormented, in Callie's marriage?All in all, an amazing book. I highly recommend it.

  • Rachel
    2019-04-27 00:58

    This was my first time reading an Oprah selection and I was disappointed. While it is a story that moved easily along, integrating me into the lives of the characters, I felt repulsed by the description of certain events in the book. To call it "gritty" doesn't quite capture how gross certain scene descriptions can be. And in those moments, I could no longer believe in the characters or the events in their lives. I was intrigued by the psychology of Harley, and the unfortunate circumstances of the characters' lives. I was hoping Harley's psychosis would have developed more completely so that the twist ending led me on a more intense ride. As it is, the other characters psychological issues aren't fully explored to create the needed suspension at the end of the story. Too many characters with too many flaws stemming from the events of their lives, until I could no longer believe in the integrity of the characters or the story. Somewhere towards the end, it fell apart instead of coming together.

  • Trisha
    2019-05-14 23:31

    The TRUTH is the TRUTH sucks sometimes. People are the only ones who care about that. The only difference between me and Elvis [the dog] isn't my ability to face or deal with or deny it. It's that I let it bother me.Wow, what a complete mind trip. I read this for a reading challenge - which means I knew NOTHING about it and just jumped it. At first, I thought it was a little dark.I had no idea. The twisted turns and leaps this story takes blew me away and I predicted none of them. Oh, sure. I had some ideas, but never knew what this was about. The mystery as you weave your way through the story is almost overwhelming. You know something is coming you just don't know what. Very well done, well crafted.

  • Alaina
    2019-05-21 00:51

    I bought this book at a used book sale and so it was crazy cheap and what drew me to the book was the back cover blurb review thingy... I know, "Don't judge a book by the cover", but the last line of "endearing humor, his love for his sisters, and his bumbling heroics can redeem them all" sounded so promising and perfect. The good thing about the book is that it is a page turner and completely pulled me in. I did want to see what happened. However, there was no humor, no likable characters by the book's end and you have to be able to stomach one crazy sick family.