Summary and book reviews of The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson

The Never-Open Desert Diner

by James Anderson

The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson X
The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2016, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2016, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

A singularly compelling debut novel, about a desert where people go to escape their past, and a truck driver who finds himself at risk when he falls in love with a mysterious woman.

Ben Jones lives a quiet, hardscrabble life, working as a trucker on Route 117, a little-travelled road in a remote region of the Utah desert which serves as a haven for fugitives and others looking to hide from the world. For many of the desert's inhabitants, Ben's visits are their only contact with the outside world, and the only landmark worth noting is a once-famous roadside diner that hasn't opened in years.

Ben's routine is turned upside down when he stumbles across a beautiful woman named Claire playing a cello in an abandoned housing development. He can tell that she's fleeing something in her past - a dark secret that pushed her to the end of the earth - but despite his better judgment he is inexorably drawn to her.

As Ben and Claire fall in love, specters from her past begin to resurface, with serious and life-threatening consequences not only for them both, but for others who have made this desert their sanctuary. Dangerous men come looking for her, and as they turn Route 117 upside down in their search, the long-buried secrets of those who've laid claim to this desert come to light, bringing Ben and the other locals into deadly conflict with Claire's pursuers. Ultimately, the answers they all seek are connected to the desert's greatest mystery - what really happened all those years ago at the never-open desert diner?

In this unforgettable story of love and loss, Ben learns the enduring truth that some violent crimes renew themselves across generations. At turns funny, heartbreaking and thrilling, The Never-Open Desert Diner powerfully evokes an unforgettable setting and introduces readers to a cast of characters who will linger long after the last page.

1

A red sun was balanced on the horizon when I arrived at The Well-Known Desert Diner. Sunrise shadows were draped around its corners. A full white moon was still visible in the dawn sky. I parked my tractor-trailer rig along the outer perimeter of the gravel parking lot. The "closed" sign hung on the front door. To the left of the door, as if in mourning for Superman, stood a black metal and glass phone booth. Inside was a real phone with a rotary dial that clicked out the ten white numbers. Unlike the phones in the movies, this one worked—if you had enough nickels.

Curiosity usually wasn't a problem for me. I treated it like a sleeping junkyard dog. As a general rule I didn't hop the fence. Jagged scars on my backside reminded me of the few times I had violated that rule. Just because you can't see the dog doesn't mean it isn't out there. Sure, I look through the fence once in a while. What I see and think I keep to myself.

On that Monday morning in...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Introduction

Ben Jones lives a quiet life working as a trucker in a beautiful and desolate region of the Utah desert, that has become a haven for fugitives and others looking to hide from the world. But when he meets Claire, a mysterious woman playing a cello in an abandoned housing development, he is drawn into a love affair that has serious and life-threatening consequences, not only for both of them but for others who have made this desert their sanctuary. Their passion reignites a decades-old tragedy at a roadside cafe known by the locals as The Never-Open Desert Diner, embroiling Ben in the aftermath of a horrific crime that threatens to destroy everything that matters to him.

In this remarkable story of ...
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!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

At first the book reminded me of Fannie Flagg's writing, with its quirky characters, light humor and ability to portray life in a specific region of the country. But, as the plot progressed it becomes darker and more complex than any of Flagg's offerings, retaining the aforementioned characteristics while adding unexpected facets, creating a truly unforgettable novel. It starts out as a light-hearted romp but by the conclusion, morphs into something entirely different.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review (677 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review
High, dry and severely beautiful...Anderson is one fine storyteller.

The Huffington Post
James Anderson and his premiere novel are a serendipity that will make a mark on your brain in the most positive way.

Publishers Weekly
Just as important as the mysteries of human entanglement are the desert's brilliant light, torrential downpours, and vast night sky.

Library Journal
Anderson, the founder and former publisher of Breitenbush Books, writes with a lyrical style and allows the plot to unfold in a manner as seductive as the desert itself. Readers who revel in fiction set in the Southwest will want to join his protagonist for the ride.

Kirkus Reviews
The great tradition of hard-boiled crime novels finds new and promising territory in the Utah desert

Author Blurb Colum McCann, National Book Award-winning author of Let the Great World Spin
James Anderson's first novel works on elements of mirage - a mystery novel with literary shimmers. In the end it is all there, apparent in the high heat of the desert: a great story, well-told, funny, daring, smart and deeply affecting.

Author Blurb CJ Box, New York Times Bestselling author of Badlands
James Anderson has written a striking debut novel - lyrical, whimsical, atmospheric and skillfully rendered.

Reader Reviews

gillian amory

feel the heat
Great atmosphere, language.

Nancy J

Memorable One-Liners
A well-located setting for colorful characters and creative "getting-by" and the noir type narrative kept me turning the pages in this debut novel. I jotted down some of those great one-liners as I went along.

Write your own review!

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

Flash Floods

Flash flooding is a constant concern in The Never-Open Desert Diner.

A flash flood is a sudden release of water that inundates an area, and is differentiated from a normal flood by its duration; by definition, a flash flood lasts less than six hours. Although they can occur under a wide variety of circumstances they're especially dangerous when they happen in a desert such as those in the American West. Rain in the desert is infrequent but when it falls it's generally torrential – several inches at once - and highly localized, meaning it may only be precipitating in a relatively small area. As the water collects it flows quickly downhill along channels that previous floods have cut in the sandstone – riverbeds or canyons that...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

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!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by James Anderson

If you liked The Never-Open Desert Diner, try these:

  • The Plague of Doves jacket

    The Plague of Doves

    by Louise Erdrich

    Published 2009

    About this book

    More books by this author

    The unsolved murder of a farm family haunts the small, white, off-reservation town of Pluto, North Dakota. The vengeance exacted for this crime and the subsequent distortions of truth transform the lives of Ojibwe living on the nearby reservation and shape the passions of both communities for the next generation.

  • Eventide jacket

    Eventide

    by Kent Haruf

    Published 2005

    About this book

    More books by this author

    Haruf returns to the small town of Holt, Colorado to continue the story he started in Plainsong (1999) with an engrossing and profoundly moving novel rich in wisdom, humor and humanity.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
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!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Incendiaries
    The Incendiaries
    by R O. Kwon
    Phoebe Lin, the glamorous but tortured heroine of The Incendiaries, is convinced she has no room for...
  • Book Jacket: Your Duck Is My Duck
    Your Duck Is My Duck
    by Deborah Eisenberg
    In this collection of six short stories, Deborah Eisenberg presents characters confronting limits ...
  • Book Jacket: Unsheltered
    Unsheltered
    by Barbara Kingsolver
    Willa Knox's house is falling down. She recently inherited a Victorian residence in Vineland, ...
  • Book Jacket: Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree
    Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree
    by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
    Ya Ta, the main character in Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani's novel, Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree, ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Winter Soldier
by Daniel Mason

A story of war and medicine, of finding love in the sweeping tides of history, and of the mistakes we make.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Kennedy Debutante
    by Kerri Maher

    "An engrossing tale of family, faith and love in the life of one remarkable woman." - Booklist
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Gone So Long

Andre Dubus III's First Novel in a Decade

A masterpiece of thrilling tension and heartrending empathy.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

G H E Rope A H Will H H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.