Old Newgate Road: Book summary and reviews of Old Newgate Road by Keith Scribner

Old Newgate Road

by Keith Scribner

Old Newgate Road by Keith Scribner X
Old Newgate Road by Keith Scribner
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2019
    320 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

The story of a father's return to his childhood home, the site of unspeakable tragedy, and of the complex and often warring obligations - not least forgiveness - we have to our family, our friends, and our past.

Old Newgate Road runs through the tobacco fields of northern Connecticut that once drove the local economy. It's where Cole Callahan spent his youth, in a historic white colonial that his family was devoted to restoring - painstakingly, relentlessly, pointlessly. But the famous claim that you can't go home again falls far short in this instance. Cole has not come back to this house, to this street, in thirty years - not since he was a teenager, when one night his father murdered his mother in a fit of rage. Now, however, he finally dares to risk it, ostensibly to collect precious material for his construction business on the west coast, and is shocked to discover his elderly father, freed from prison, living alone in their old home, and succumbing to dementia. Compelled by a sense of responsibility to a man he hates, and confronted in middle age by everything he'd left unfinished when he fled this place in his aborted childhood, he finds that the time for a reckoning has at last come.

Matters grow even more complicated when his estranged wife calls to say their ultra-progressive, rabble-rousing son has run up against the law and been expelled from high school. And so Cole summons Daniel to East Granby to work in the tobacco fields - his own job growing up - and soon their lives are enmeshed with the family legacy, and with Cole's boyhood sweetheart as well as his nemesis. What unfolds over this summer surprises and challenges them all, as they contend with the sinister history they share and desperately try to invent a future that isn't doomed by it.

Moving, insightful, and suspenseful, Old Newgate Road is a masterful portrait of a haunted family and successive generations of men struggling against all odds and often violent impulses to truly know one another and their loved ones, and to somehow come to terms with themselves.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"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. " - Publishers Weekly

"The story of a house, a family, and the bitter legacy of tragedy...Recommended." - Library Journal

"A bracing, knotty exploration of abuse and its impact across decades." - Kirkus

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Reader Reviews

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Sandi W.

our past can predict our future
This is one of the better novels I have read that relates to men. A story of three generations, son, father and grandfather, all different. But all still trying to move through the guilt of the past.

Although I thought that this book started off a bit slow, it took no time to become involved in the lives of these three men. Phil, the grandfather, released from prison, squatting at the old homestead and trying to fight off Alzheimers. Cole, the main character, home to help his father and try to rebuild the old colonial house. And Daniel, sent to this tobacco producing farmland for the summer, to keep him out of trouble. Each one as different as night and day, yet bound together by stories from the past.

This is my first book by Keith Scribner. It was a good introduction to an author that I intend to read again. His story was easy to read, kept me involved, and showed the comparisons and contrasts between not only generations from the same family, but also with other families of men from that same time frame and geographical area, detailing how our past can predict our future, but also direct our dreams.

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Author Information

Keith Scribner

Keith Scribner grew up in Troy, New York, and then East Granby, Connecticut. His previous novels are The Oregon Experiment, Miracle Girl, and The GoodLife, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He currently teaches at Oregon State University in Corvallis, where he lives with his wife, the poet Jennifer Richter, and their children.

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