cover image Old Newgate Road

Old Newgate Road

Keith Scribner. Knopf, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-525-52179-2

A man returns to his long-abandoned childhood home, stirring up memories from a traumatic boyhood in this gripping saga from Scribner (The Oregon Experiment). Set among the sweet-smelling tobacco fields of East Granby, Conn., Cole Callahan remembers his childhood home—where his parents and the Callahan children conducted unceasing restoration efforts, and where Cole’s father abused his mother, eventually killing her—as a locus of violence and thrumming fear. Now the owner of a construction business, Cole returns to town after 30 years of absence to gather materials for a project, only to discover his estranged father, whose grasp on reality has eroded, inhabiting the home, where he plays eerie melodies on the old upright piano. Cole stays, ostensibly to care for his father, and flies in his teenage son, Daniel, to work the tobacco fields for the summer. A tenuous peace is briefly forged, but soon tensions with several of East Granby residents (including Liz, an old girlfriend) ignite; when they combust one violent night, Cole is spurred to examine his childhood and come to grips with the truth of his mother’s murder. Scribner’s narrative draws out themes of masculinity, sublimated trauma, and physical violence—speaking to the ways people fashion narratives out of troubled pasts to survive, resulting in a probing, tightly-plotted novel. (Jan.)