Reviews for Kept

Booklist Reviews 2013 November #2
800x600 The first sentence of Scott's atmospheric debut, set in frozen upstate New York in 1897, proclaims: "Elspeth Howell was a sinner." Indeed she is, by anyone's reckoning, but within this dark, violent landscape, only sinners have a chance. Already burdened by her transgressions--"anger, covetousness, thievery"--midwife Elspeth arrives at her remote farm after a months-long absence and discovers her family brutally killed--all but 12-year-old Caleb, who shoots her, thinking she is one of the murderers, returned. After Elspeth recovers sufficiently from her wounds, under Caleb's makeshift care, they set out to bring down the three men responsible. This taut revenge tale, as gritty as any western, is also an unusual coming-of-age story and a compelling saga of twisted secrets in which the very unmaternal Elspeth and the son she barely knows (and why is that?) slowly form a close bond. Scott writes with sustained intensity and strong descriptive powers, whether evoking the pair's dangerous trudge through high snowdrifts, the rough lake town where many answers lie, or his characters' complex lives and motivations. Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4
Kirkus Reviews 2013 October #2
The crimes of a benighted woman spark horrific blowback; in its wake, this wrenching first novel from the Massachusetts-based Scott tracks two lost souls in the New York hinterland of the late 19th century. Elspeth Howell is a midwife returning home after a monthslong absence. She trudges through falling snow to their remote farmhouse only to find husband Jorah and four of their children shot dead. The sole survivor is 12-year-old Caleb, who had watched the three killers from the barn. It gets worse; Caleb shoots his mother by accident; his anguish is profound. Then the house burns down, the unintended consequence of Caleb's funeral pyre. Elspeth survives. The carnage is linked to her own crimes of opportunity. She and Jorah, a Native American, had tried to conceive, but Elspeth was barren and became seized by the compulsion to steal babies. None of the children are hers. A deeply religious woman, she aches with the consciousness of her sins and yearns for divine punishment but is unable to stop. A tip steers Caleb and the recovering Elspeth, in pursuit of the killers, to Watersbridge, the gritty town beside Lake Erie from which she stole Caleb. With the revenge motif as a backbeat, the pair, haunted though they are, improvise new lives for themselves. Elspeth, disguised as a man, finds work hauling ice. The resourceful Caleb is hired as a handyman at a brothel. The owner, a smooth-as-silk villain, kills without compunction, and Caleb guesses correctly that clues here will help his search. He encounters two fearsomely angry men, both indirect victims of Elspeth's thefts. Yet, for all the collateral damage she has caused, Elspeth has a core of decency sufficient to retain our sympathy. Caleb is spun around like a top through heartbreaking discoveries and narrow escapes, but any excess in the material is tempered by the calm restraint of Scott's language. Scott is both compassionate moralist and master storyteller in this outstanding debut. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2014 January #1

Enter the harsh winter weather of upstate New York in 1897, which from the start plays a role in this impressive debut. Midwife Elspeth Howell returns to her isolated farm and walks from the train station under a sky and clouds as oppressive as her sins: anger, covetousness, and thievery. Upon reaching the homestead, she finds her husband and all but one of her five children, her son Caleb, murdered. A grim story of revenge develops into much more as mother and son track down those responsible, and young Caleb is faced with understanding his mother's crimes and ultimately forgiving her. As they close in on their quarry, the weather escalates into a fierce snowstorm, and they must battle ice and frigid temperatures as well as hired murderers. VERDICT Merging the Southern gothic tale with a style recalling the Western, this action-packed novel would make a terrific film. The author has crafted a laudable, compelling, tightly woven tale with memorable characters, Caleb in particular. Scott writes with an eloquence that urges the reader to return to passages and reread them just to admire his superb skill. Highly recommended.--Lisa Rohrbaugh, Leetonia Community P.L., OH

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 November #2

Scott's accomplished debut--a dark, brooding tale set in upstate New York in the late 19th century--follows a compulsive midwife who must deal with the tragic consequences of her actions in order to form a family. As Elspeth Howell, mother of five, tromps through a blizzard to return home after weeks spent performing her duties, she finds a grisly bloodbath: her Native American husband, Jorah, and four children have been murdered. Only middle son Caleb, 12, survives. Startled while hiding in the pantry, the boy accidentally shoots his mother. Elspeth survives both this event and the flames that decimate the cabin after Caleb attempts to gruesomely burn the stacked bodies of his family members. The novel dips briskly back in time to reveal that Elspeth's children were all abducted as infants from other households, since she is unable to conceive children of her own. The price of these crimes manifests itself in the tragedies she now faces. Elspeth and Caleb decide to track down the killers, and this expansive search, steeped in Elspeth's need for revenge and Caleb's search for his true lineage, expands the breadth of Scott's novel and forces mother and son to adopt new identities in distant locales. Together, they face a host of angry villains, any of which could've been responsible for the executions. Scott has produced a work of historical fiction that is both atmospheric and memorable, suffused with dread and suspense right up to the last page. (Jan.)

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