The Kept: A Novel

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Set in rural New York state at the turn of the twentieth century, superb new talent James Scott makes his literary debut with The Kept—a propulsive novel reminiscent of the works of Michael Ondaatje, Cormac McCarthy, and Bonnie Jo Campbell, in which a mother and her young son embark on a quest to avenge a terrible and violent tragedy that has shattered their secluded family.

In the winter of 1897, a trio of killers descends upon an isolated farm in upstate New York. Midwife Elspeth Howell returns home to the carnage: her husband, and four of her children, murdered. Before she can discover her remaining son Caleb, alive and hiding in the kitchen pantry, another shot rings out over the snow-covered valley. Twelve-year-old Caleb must tend to his mother until she recovers enough for them to take to the frozen wilderness in search of the men responsible.

A scorching portrait of a merciless world—of guilt and lost innocence, atonement and retribution, resilience and sacrifice, pregnant obsession and primal adolescence—The Kept introduces an old-beyond-his-years protagonist as indelible and heartbreaking as Mattie Ross of True Grit or Jimmy Blevins of All the Pretty Horses, as well as a shape-shifting mother as enigmatic and mysterious as a character drawn by Russell Banks or Marilynne Robinson. 

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About the author

James Scott was born in Boston and grew up in upstate New York. He holds a BA from Middlebury College and an MFA from Emerson College. His fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, American Short Fiction, and other publications. He lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and dog. The Kept is his first novel.

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3.8
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Additional Information

Publisher
Harper Collins
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Published on
Jan 7, 2014
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Pages
384
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ISBN
9780062236661
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Literary
Fiction / Thrillers / Crime
Fiction / Westerns
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Set in a logging town on the lawless Pacific coast of Washington State at the turn of the twentieth century, a spellbinding novel of fate and redemption—told with a muscular lyricism and filled with a cast of characters Shakespearean in scope—in which the lives of an ill-fated family are at the mercy of violent social and historical forces that tear them apart.

Keen to make his fortune, Jacob Ellstrom, armed with his medical kit and new wife, Nell, lands in The Harbor—a mud-filled, raucous coastal town teeming with rough trade pioneers, sawmill laborers, sailors, and prostitutes. But Jacob is not a doctor, and a botched delivery exposes his ruse, driving him onto the streets in a plunge towards alcoholism. Alone, Nell scrambles to keep herself and their young son, Duncan, safe in this dangerous world. When a tentative reunion between the couple—in the company of Duncan and Jacob’s malicious brother, Matius—results in tragedy, Jacob must flee town to elude being charged with murder.

Years later, the wild and reckless Duncan seems to be yet another of The Harbor’s hoodlums. His only salvation is his overwhelming love for Teresa Boyerton, the daughter of the town’s largest mill owner. But disaster will befall the lovers with heartbreaking consequences.

And across town, Bellhouse, a union boss and criminal rabble-rouser, sits at the helm of The Harbor’s seedy underbelly, perpetuating a cycle of greed and violence. His thug Tartan directs his pack of thieves, pimps, and murderers, and conceals an incendiary secret involving Duncan’s mother. As time passes, a string of calamitous events sends these characters hurtling towards each other in an epic collision that will shake the town to its core.

“Beautifully researched and masterfully told” (Alex Kershaw, New York Times bestselling author of Escape from the Deep), this is the riveting story of the heroic and tragic US submarine force that helped win World War II in the Pacific.

Focusing on the unique stories of three of the war’s top submarines—Silversides, Drum, and Tang—The War Below vividly re-creates the camaraderie, exhilaration, and fear of the brave volunteers who took the fight to the enemy’s coastline in World War II. Award-winning journalist James Scott recounts incredible feats of courage—from an emergency appendectomy performed with kitchen utensils to sailors’ desperate struggle to escape from a flooded submarine—as well as moments of unimaginable tragedy, including an attack on an unmarked enemy freighter carrying 1,800 American prisoners of war.

The casualty rate among submariners topped that of all other military branches. The war claimed almost one out of every five submarines, and a submarine crewman was six times more likely to die than a sailor onboard a surface ship. But this valorous service accomplished its mission; Silversides, Drum, and Tang sank a combined sixty-two freighters, tankers, and transports. The Japanese were so ravaged from the loss of precious supplies that by the war’s end, pilots resorted to suicidal kamikaze missions and hungry civilians ate sawdust while warships had to drop anchor due to lack of fuel. In retaliation, the Japanese often beat, tortured, and starved captured submariners in the atrocious prisoner of war camps.

Based on more than 100 interviews with submarine veterans and thousands of pages of previously unpublished letters and diaries, The War Below lets readers experience the battle for the Pacific as never before.
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE'S JOHN LEONARD AWARD • LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD

NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • San Francisco Chronicle • New York • Chicago Tribune • Kansas City Star • GQ • NPR • Christian Science Monitor • Cleveland Plain Dealer

In a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire to her home. When their lifelong neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.

For Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance.

Now with Extra Libris material, including a reader’s guide and bonus content from the author.

Praise for A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

“Here, in fresh, graceful prose, is a profound story that dares to be as tender as it is ghastly, a story about desperate lives in a remote land that will quickly seem impossibly close and important. . . . I haven’t been so overwhelmed by a novel in years. At the risk of raising your expectations too high, I have to say you simply must read this book.”—Ron Charles, Washington Post

“Extraordinary . . . a 21st century War and Peace . . . Marra seems to derive his astral calm in the face of catastrophe directly from Tolstoy.”—Madison Smartt Bell, New York Times Book Review

“Ambitious and intellectually restless . . . [Marra is] a lover not a fighter, a prose writer who resembles the Joseph Heller of Catch-22 and the Jonathan Safran Foer of Everything Is Illuminated.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times
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