BOOK: Purgatory Road
AUTHOR: Samuel Parker
MY RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★ (4/5)
When a day trip out of Las Vegas with his wife takes a turn for the worse, Jack is sure that he has the ability to get them home. But he drove into something far beyond reason. Rescue comes in the form of a desert hermit, but hope fades as the couple comes to realize that the nomad has no intention of letting them leave. A chance encounter with a kidnapped runaway and her crazed abductor leads them all farther into the wilderness—and closer to the cold brutality that isolation brings.
At the edge of his sanity, Jack begins to learn that playing by another’s rules may be the only way to survive.
I received an advanced reading copy of this publication in exchange for an honest review.
I know somebody is going to end up giving me hell for this comment, but this book actually gave me subtle American God vibes. And if being compared to Neil Gaiman isn’t praise, than I’m not quite sure what is.
Jack & Laura are a married couple who have decided to take a trip out to Las Vegas in a hopes to rekindle their relationship. One afternoon, they decide to rent a car and drive out into the desert to explore and see what they can find. Jack’s need to push things just a little bit further have them headed out to a secluded area, and when their car stalls, the two begin to panic. With just two bottles of water to share between them, Jack and Laura wait in their vehicle, hoping that someone will wander down the highway and help them before the desert heat claims their lives.
Just when they have nearly give up, help comes in the form of Boots, a hermit living in the desert in a small shack. He takes the couple back to his home and nurses them back to health, but it seems as though he has no intention of letting the two leave. The situation only intensifies when they stumble upon a teenage runaway who claims she was being held captive in the desert hills.
“Is it the actual blow that causes so much suffering, or the anticipation of it? The waiting for the strike of pain that we know is coming and every fiber in our body tenses in macabre expectation. The road before him was the physical embodiment of the question. He could not will himself to the end of the story; he had to walk the gauntlet of fear.”
Samuel Parker knows how to turn a phrase. His writing is completely illustrative, and it’s initially what drew me into this story. There is so much going on in Purgatory Road, and yet one of the biggest themes here is definitely man vs. self. Jack is not a perfect man, and his insecurity in himself is leading to the destruction of his relationship without his even realizing. Even when he is rescued, Jack fails to relinquish control over the situation he finds himself in and constantly feels the need to prove himself.
“Maybe the old man would come crashing through the door with an axe in his hand. Maybe Jack would leap up and beat the life out of the old man, saving his wife from dismemberment, and saving the day. They would ride off on horseback, she with her arms around his waist, in love again with her brave hero.
Either that or he would be chopped to bits while Laura cowered in the corner waiting her turn, a look of shame on her face as she realized she had cast her lot with such a horrible protector.”
The suspense is real, and the alternating perspectives really help to increase that edge of your seat feeling. There is just enough of a supernatural element to make the whole story still feel plausible while also continuing to raise questions in your mind. My confusion and lack of fully understanding the situation is what pushed me through each chapter. I had to understand, the pieces had to finally come together. And they do, in a way, but they’re also left a little open ended. Great discussions will be had about this book!
One hell of a debut novel, I look forward to seeing what else Samuel Parker has in store for us.