cover image Dirt Road

Dirt Road

James Kelman. Catapult (PGW, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-936787-50-0

Kelman’s (How Late It Was, How Late) peregrinating novel is a powerful meditation on loss, life, death, and the bond between father and son. Sixteen-year-old Murdo and his father travel from Scotland to America to visit an aunt and uncle living in Alabama. As the family grapples with the recent death of Murdo’s mother, the father and son find it increasingly difficult to speak with one another. Their interactions are an accumulation of near misses—attempts and failures to communicate in the midst of loss. As we explore the American South through the eyes of a thoughtful Scottish teenager, we see it afresh—the severe weather, racial tensions, zydeco music. Murdo, an aspiring musician, is enthralled by his encounters with American people on American land, and his growing connection to these new surroundings mirrors his struggle to cope with a loss that seems almost impossible for him to comprehend. Throughout the novel, Murdo’s observations are prone to long, circuitous paths, but they are strikingly astute. Like in his previous works, Kelman has created a fully-realized, relatable voice that reveals a young man’s urgent need for connection in a time of grief. (July)