November Road (My review)

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Synopsis:

“Set against the assassination of JFK, a poignant and evocative crime novel that centers on a desperate cat-and-mouse chase across 1960s America – a story of unexpected connections, daring possibilities, and the hope of second chances.

Frank Guidry’s luck has finally run out.

A loyal street lieutenant to New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello, Guidry has learned that everybody is expendable. But now it’s his turn – he knows too much about the crime of the century: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Within hours of JFK’s murder, everyone with ties to Marcello is turning up dead, and Guidry suspects he’s next. With few good options, Guidry hits the road to Las Vegas, to see an old associate – a dangerous man who, maybe, hates Marcello enough to help Guidry vanish.

Guidry knows that the first rule of running is “don’t stop,” but when he sees a young housewife on the side of the road with a broken-down car, two little girls, and a dog in the back seat, he sees the perfect cover for his escape from the hit man on his trail. Posing as an insurance man, Guidry offers to help Charlotte reach her destination, California. If she accompanies him to Las Vegas, he can help her get a new car.

For her, it’s more than a car – it’s an escape. She’s on the run too, from a stifling existence in small-town Oklahoma and a husband who’s a hopeless drunk.

It’s an American story: two strangers meet to share the open road west, a dream, a hope – and find each other on the way. Charlotte sees that Frank is open-minded and kind; he discovers that she’s smart and witty. He learns that she’s determined to give herself and her daughters a new life; she can’t know that he’s desperate to leave his old one behind.

Another rule: fugitives shouldn’t fall in love, especially with each other. A road isn’t just a road, it’s a trail, and Guidry’s ruthless and relentless hunter is closing in on him. But now Guidry doesn’t just want to survive, he wants to really live, maybe for the first time.

Everyone’s expendable, but now Guidry can’t just throw away the woman and children he’s come to love. And it might get them all killed.”

This novel is 299 pages in length, pages 295-299 is the epilogue based in the year 2003 from the perspective of Charlotte’s two daughters. There is some cussing, violence, romance, and material of a sexual nature. You are given “three sets of eyes to look out of.” I phrase it like that because it gives you the perspective of Frank Guidry, Charlotte with her two daughters, and then Paul Barone towards the middle and end of the story. (As well the two daughters in the epilogue but that is only a few pages in the end so I didn’t exactly count their perspective in the whole story.)

November Road is quite a subtle read. There was plenty of action to make it thrilling, plenty of detail to paint a clear image for you, but also laid back as if a good friend is telling you a story through random conversation. I enjoyed reading this novel very much and was actually sad to finish it. I wanted it to be longer than it was once I started reading it.

I read the synopsis and thought it sounded interesting but the image in my head was completely different than what it turned out to be but in a good way, thankfully. When I read the novel I thought it was about the assassination of JFK and the way life was in that time but it wasn’t really even like that for me.

“Her turn. If only life were like that, Charlotte thought, a game, where every round you were allowed to spin the wheel again, to pluck a fresh card from the pile. Though who was to say that a new spin or a fresh card would improve your position on the board.” (Page 46)

It’s an interesting thought to think of life as a board game or a card game. You get to roll dice to pick a turn, you get to move ahead a few steps or move backward, you get to pick a new card to see what lies ahead for you. That would be interesting in a sense but maybe boring as well. Instead of dealing with life in real time or it being spontaneous everything would be more predictable in a sense and you can arrange your life based on how well you learn the game. Life can be predictable in a lot of ways, but that’s the beauty of your fellow human, they add that freewill unpredictability that a board game doesn’t give you.

One thing I enjoyed about this novel is the different perspectives of the assassination of President JFK. I was not even alive when he was murdered, but when I learned about it my parents taught me it was a tragedy. That a decent person would be sad about our president being murdered because at the end of the day, being the president is just a job not worth being murdered over. I enjoyed how the author tastefully gave a joyous reaction as well as the many devasted reactions that would have been expected. You almost forget that there are people who had something to gain from his death. You definitely forget, while living in your own little world, that there are people who aren’t the same as you and don’t view things exactly the same way. I think he did it very tastefully when considered what we are talking about.

I tried very hard to write the previous paragraph without being disrespectful. The truth is the death of a president, the death of another person, should be viewed as painful or sad and I don’t want to be disrespectful about a real-life situation even if the context I’m reviewing is a book merely based on the real-life time frame. But my point remains, this was a sensitive and potentially risky topic to write on and a part that should be distasteful and disrespectful was actually done very well in comparison. Lou Berney did a fantastic job writing the parts where a character is happy about the assassination without ruining the entire book.

Overall review of the novel November Road by Lou Berney is three main characters who each have their own perspective of the same exact story. Three timelines that cross, intersect and intertwine from start to finish. You have Frank Guidry that would be the main character essentially. Frank works for a mob boss during the time in America when the assassination of JFK occurred and apparently that same mob boss was the one who had the assassination arranged to begin with. The amount of subtle detail that tied each chapter of the story together was beautiful, never once did I wonder why “that” detail was pertinent to the storyline.

Frank goes on the run to escape his fate and runs into Charlotte and her two daughters Joan and Rosemary. Charlotte’s version is an oppressed wife and mother who feels as if she isn’t allowed to follow her dreams. She is held back by her husband because submissive is the appropriate role she is supposed to take. Her role in life is to take care of her husband and her daughters but she also has a full-time job with a boss who she is also submissive to because this was a time where a woman was viewed as talentless and dumb. You know, us emotional and irrational women who make poor decisions and need a man to help us make a decision.

One day Charlotte makes the tough choice to pack up her daughters and their dog and leave her husband while making their way to California from Oklahoma. Charlotte’s husband is a hopeless drunk, as you may have read in the synopsis and that’s what fuels her choice to leave. She didn’t want her daughters growing up thinking they didn’t have a choice in this world when in fact they do have choices. Charlotte packs them up and heads out, weather causes them to wreck the car into a ditch, a tow truck picks them up and hauls them into the nearest town. While the tow truck is picking them up, Frank drives by and sees them.

Frank has a realization that if his mob boss is hunting him down across America, his guy might be asking around about Frank, a single man with no wife or kids. When Frank puts the two pieces together and sees Charlotte and her daughters alone he puts together a plan to convince them they need to ride with him until Las Vegas. I won’t ruin all the details but Frank manages to convince Charlotte to travel with him. This works for a while with the guy trailing Frank trying to find him. Frank and Charlotte actually fall for each other but not blindly.

This is where I can no longer give you any more details without ruining the novel. It’s a beautiful and almost sad ending while also being a “happy” ending where it counts. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who likes a good mob boss crime novel with a hint of romance and action.

If you are interested in Lou Berney, November Road or any of his other published work, feel free to check out his website listed below:

Lou Berney -Author’s Website

I’d love to know what your thoughts were of this novel, are you interested in reading it? Have you already read it, if so what did you think? Do you agree with my review and if not, what were/are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you! Thank you for taking the time to check out this review today, I certainly loved reading November Road by Lou Berney.

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