THE KEPT by James Scott is a first novel. I find myself getting very excited when I come upon a first novel like this.
It’s winter in upstate New York. It’s out in the middle of nowhere. The year is 1897. Midwife Elspeth Howell is doggedly tromping through the deep snow, returning to her home and her husband and children. She has walked miles and miles. And has much time to contemplate all of her sins.
The travesty Elspeth encounters once she arrives home is of such a horrific matter that I shudder just thinking of it. Let’s just say it’s one of the harshest scenes I’ve come across in all my reading years. Yet it’s compelling and gorgeously portrayed. Only a truly accomplished writer could pull this off. And this is Scott’s first novel. Hard to believe.
Elspeth and her family have lived in total seclusion for all their years together. The children have never experienced life interacting with other people. And we ask why?
Elspeth’s husband Jorah is of Indian descent. Being an extremely religious man, he has taught the children the bible. Only Caleb, who is twelve, has not taken to the faith. And he asks himself why?”
The book flap states , ” A scorching portrait of a merciless world-of guilt and lost innocence, atonement and retribution, resilience and sacrifice, pregnant obsession and primal adolescence.” This perfectly captures the essence of this story.
Reminiscent of THE ORCHARDIST by Amanda Chopin and the writing of Cormac McCarthy, THE KEPT brings us an undeniably amazing new writer in James Scott.
I am being cautious and not giving much information on purpose. I have already noticed too many reviews of this book that are riddled with spoilers. I prefer that you read the book as I did: without knowing much at all. Your reading experience will be heightened.
Even though this story is dark and frigid in nature, I implore you to read it. I believe it is going to be one of the best new novels of this year. I will honestly say that I certainly had no intention of beginning this new year with a story so dark, but I am so glad I have. The writing is superb.
There is nothing I enjoy more than reading about revenge. And atonement. Well, here it is folks. In a HUGE way.
Kirkus gave THE KEPT a starred review and said, ” Scott is both compassionate moralist and master storyteller in this outstanding debut.”
I have the kind people at Harper Collins to thank for my review copy. Thank you so much!