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 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.
This book was the Btown Booksters choice for last month...and wow, we did not know what we were getting ourselves into! Let me say first, I really liked this book. HOWEVER, it is extremely disturbing and intense. How about I put it this way...there's murder, child abuse, adultery and even worse things (that I can't say because it will spoil the book). So, if you have a weak constitution when it comes to the dark side of human nature - skip this book. Otherwise, I think it is a gripping novel that is definitely worth reading.
I really liked Harley, the flawed narrator, despite the fact that he's not exactly sane nor a necessarily good person (others in a group did not have such a favorable opinion of him). I loved the fact that the reader discovers the twists and turns in the plot as Harley does. I think that is why I felt so much sympathy for his character - we were going through this shocking experience together.
I read this book in two sittings as it is quite the page turner. Family secrets, hidden truths, sexual impulses and the Altmyer family legacy of violence converge into an explosive ending. If you can handle a really dark book - I highly recommend Back Roads.