Review: Desperation Road, by Michael Farris Smith

Desperation RoadDesperation Road by Michael Farris Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up ‘Desperation Road’ after I kept seeing it pop up on my feed with several 5-star ratings. I didn’t read any of the reviews before I went into this book, which was probably a good thing because I was able to experience everything fresh, without any idea of what was going to transpire. It ended up being quite a big surprise for me, but not in the way that you’d probably expect.

You see, McComb, Mississippi is my hometown…and it is the setting of this story. My family has a very long history in this small southern town. In fact, my grandmother’s uncle – my great, great uncle – was McComb’s Chief of Police in the 1920’s. He is one of 3 officers that have been killed in the line of duty in the history of McComb’s police force. He was gunned down when serving a warrant for forged checks. His murderer escaped and an international manhunt ensued, with the murderer being caught in Canada and eventually hung in Magnolia.

Going into this story, I had absolutely no idea of where the story was set and it caught me off guard. While other readers were engrossed in the story, I found myself lost to a strong case of nostalgia. I haven’t been back in years, since I was a young teen, but as the author described Delaware Avenue and the angular arches of Centenary United Methodist Church, it felt like I was right back there again. I could so easily picture the surrounding towns, like Magnolia, and the businesses like the Fernwood Truck Stop that the author described. He really did a fantastic job of accurately portraying the geography and physical lay of the land.

That being said, because I spent so much time reminiscing, I did find myself missing details of the story more than a few times. I was listening to the Audible version and had to “rewind” this story several times to reorient myself. For most listeners, this probably won’t be a problem. It is always a little trickier to stay abreast of what’s going on when listening to a story that bounces between multiple characters, but this one was more difficult for me because I kept getting lost in my own memories.

The story itself was suspenseful and utterly captivating. Alongside the vivid descriptions of the town and surrounding areas, a full cast of characters makes this story stand out. Everyone in this book has a story to tell. The secrets, betrayals and motivations are many.

The two characters that are the central focus of this story are on separate paths, not intersecting until you are well into the story. As the story unfolds, past and present collide. Will they be offered the chance to redeem themselves?

Russell Gaines has just been released from prison, after serving time for killing a young man. He returns to his hometown, where the brothers of his victim have been awaiting his release – and their revenge – for the duration of his imprisonment. As with other characters, the details of his past are revealed little by little.

Maben is wandering alongside the Interstate when we first meet her. Every possession she owns is carried in the trash bag thrown over her shoulder. Along with her young daughter, Annalee, she trudges on toward the town she hasn’t been to in years. She is a much-changed version of the girl she was when she left her hometown. Addiction and loss have left their mark on her. In an act of desperation, she jeopardizes the only good thing that she has left in her life.

Overall, I thought that this was a fantastic and engaging read. I will probably go back to it at some point to catch the details that I suspect that I’ve missed while I was reminiscing. Even so, it was a great story that kept me guessing right to the very end. This author sucked me right in to the plight of these characters. It is my first book by Michael Farris Smith, but will not be my last.

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