(CCLaP publishes mini-reviews of both books and movies on a regular basis, none lasting more than a few hundred words. Click here for the full list.)
Reservation Road (book; 1999)
By John Burnham Schwartz
Vintage / ISBN: 978-03757-027-30
So yes, the entire reason this eight-year-old novel came to my attention recently is because of the high-profile movie adaptation that just came out, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Connelly; and yes, the reason I decided to read it after having it brought to my attention is because it's apparently a complex tale concerning the futility of revenge, and I like complex tales concerning the futility of revenge. More specifically, it's the story of mousy New England dad Ethan, whose son is accidentally hit and killed by reckless fellow New England dad Dwight, but with Dwight bolting and running instead of doing the right thing ethically and stopping. As the plot brings the two fathers closer and closer together (Dwight's a lawyer, see, and at a certain point is actually hired by Ethan to help him track down his son's killer), the story really becomes an intense character study of these two grieving, deeply flawed males, and how they let such base human emotions as anger, guilt and obsession completely subsume both their lives, for different reasons and with different results, both bad.
But it's been a couple of weeks now since I read the novel, and frankly even now I'm having trouble recalling many of its details; it's one of those books, not that bad but not that memorable either, kinda like the guiding principles behind the programming staff of the Lifetime cable network. I do remember this very specifically, though, that I was disappointed with the ending; without going into detail, let's just say that I had been led to believe that Reservation Road examines the issue of revenge in an unexpectedly complicated and unique way, while I found the reality to be a lot more ho-hum and not very illuminating at all. The book ends the exact way you expect a Lifetime cable movie to end; again, not in a bad way, but rather in a way that everyone can already guess, and in a way that makes you wonder why this book has gotten all the hype it has. It's a nicely written mainstream novel that's deeper than the usual supermarket fare, but that ultimately isn't too challenging; a perfect recommendation for suburban friends and relatives who flinch nervously at the sound of the word "cutting-edge."
Out of 10: 7.8