Excerpt from The Kept by James Scott, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Kept

By James Scott

The Kept
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Jan 2014,
    368 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Suzanne Reeder

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Elspeth Howell was a sinner. The thought passed over her like a shadow as she washed her face or caught her reflection in a window or disembarked from a train after months away from home. Whenever she saw a church or her husband quoted verse or she touched the simple cross around her neck while she fetched her bags, her transgressions lay in the hollow of her chest, hard and heavy as stone. The multitude of her sins—anger, covetousness, thievery—created a tension in her body, and all that could ease the pressure was movement, finding something to occupy her wicked hands and her tempted mind, and so she churned her legs against snow that piled in drifts to her waist.

While the miles passed, the sky over Elspeth became nothing but a gray smudge and weighty clouds released their burden. She loosened the scarf from her face and the cold invaded her lungs. As soon as a drop of sweat slid out from under a glove or down a curl of hair, it turned to ice that flickered in the last of the light.

In her pocket, she kept a list of the children's names and ages, the years crossed out two and three times, so that when she bought gifts, she forgot no one. She carried a fish scaler for Amos, fourteen, a goose caller for Caleb, twelve, a hunting knife for Jesse, ten, a fifty-inch broadcloth for Mary, fifteen, a length of purple ribbon for Emma, six, and a small vial of perfume for both girls to share. Wrapped with care against the elements, hidden at the bottom of the bag, were strawberry hard candies, gumdrops, and chewing gum. For her husband, she brought two boxes of ammunition and a new pair of sheep shears. Collectively these goods had cost her only a fraction of her four months' midwife salary. The rest resided in the toes of her boots.

The valley stretched out behind her; the tracks she'd left were already erased. When she'd stepped off the train in Deerstand midmorning, the snow had been a lazy flurry, but the closer she got to home, the deeper the snow became, and the more furiously it fell. It was as if, she thought, God wanted to keep outsiders away as much as the Howells did. "We are an Ark unto ourselves, waiting for the floodwaters to rise," her husband, Jorah, liked to say. She heard his calming voice in her ears, over the sighing wind and the whisper of wet snowflakes, and she missed him. She longed for his silken hair against her cheek at night, his soft footsteps as he left in the morning to milk, and his smell—of leaves, of smoke, of outdoor air.

She'd meant to come home in October. The baby had been born before the snow covered the earth, and she went by every day to check on its well-being, to touch each of its little fingers and their pearly nails. The child grew as October gave way to November and the calendar flirted with December. The city—any city—always had need for a midwife. Even that morning, looking out the window, warm by the fire, she couldn't bring herself to leave, and failed to get on the train before dawn had broken, revealing a clear, bright day.

Still a ways from home, something nagged at the back of her head, threatening to push forward and topple her. She hurried, but the rush made for careless steps. The path shrank, and she passed between naked oaks and shivering pines. The light emanating from the snow turned the color of a new bruise as the day died, glowing just enough to mark her way. The terrain leveled again and she broke through the woods. Elspeth knew by the rolling of the ground that she crossed the cornfields; the dead stalks cracked beneath the ice and snow. She tromped alongside the creek that brought them their water, frozen at the surface but trickling below. It was then that the fear that had been tugging at her identified itself: It was nothing. No smell of a winter fire; no whoops from the boys rounding up the sheep or herding the cows; no welcoming light.

From The Kept by James Scott Copyright © 2014 by James Scott. Reprinted courtesy of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Frozen-Water Trade

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...
  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and amibtious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.