The Kept [NOOK Book]

Overview

With shades of Charles Portis, Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O’Connor, this is a gothic western transferred to the ice-locked wilds of upstate New York at the turn of the 20th century; a brutal and searing debut novel about a mother’s obsession and a son’s search for answers in the wake of a terrible and violent tragedy.

In the winter of 1897, midwife Elspeth Howell returns to her isolated farmstead to find her husband and four of her five children murdered. Before she discovers ...

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The Kept

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Overview

With shades of Charles Portis, Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O’Connor, this is a gothic western transferred to the ice-locked wilds of upstate New York at the turn of the 20th century; a brutal and searing debut novel about a mother’s obsession and a son’s search for answers in the wake of a terrible and violent tragedy.

In the winter of 1897, midwife Elspeth Howell returns to her isolated farmstead to find her husband and four of her five children murdered. Before she discovers her remaining son, Caleb, alive and hiding in the kitchen pantry, she is shot.

Caleb nurses his mother back to health, cleaning her wounds and keeping her fed, before he and Elspeth leave their home to seek retribution from the men who committed this heinous crime. As they travel from country to town to hunt the murderers, the reader learns of Elspeth’s deep secret—that she kidnapped the very children who call her mother—and questions her role in the novel’s initial violence. Meanwhile Caleb is confronted with the ways of a world he’s never known. The line between justice and vengeance is thrown into question as Caleb and Elspeth are forced to reconsider their relationship and what unknown future lies ahead for both of them.

The Kept is a portrait of both maternal obsessions and a primal adolescence in a brutal world. Fans of True Grit’s Mattie Ross and All the Pretty Horses’s Jimmy Blevins will love Caleb Howell, the next great old-beyond-his-years protaganist of an unforgettable literary Western—this time set in the icy wilderness of the East Coast.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 01/01/2014
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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062236661
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/7/2014
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 32,360
  • File size: 597 KB

Meet the Author

JAMES SCOTT was born in Boston and grew up in upstate New York. He holds a BA from Middlebury College, Vermont, and an MFA from Emerson College, Boston. His fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, American Short Fiction and other publications. He lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and dog. The Kept is his first novel.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 48 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(14)

4 Star

(14)

3 Star

(10)

2 Star

(9)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 48 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 18, 2014

    Look at the book cover very closely. See the house burning, slo

    Look at the book cover very closely. See the house burning, slowly?? Almost smoldering? With all that white snow around and barren trees? Well, there is a story inside with lots of secrets that won’t be revealed until you are ready to take steps toward that fire.

    This story is absolutely fantastic, brilliantly written, and is not meant for the faint at heart or the rushed reader. It’s a like a stew, the longer it simmers, the better it tastes. Only, this book doesn’t taste good…the secrets are quite shocking, revealing, and show why these characters worked so hard at hiding in their home, away from everyone.

    As you read this story, remind yourself: this is 1897. Long before the Women’s Suffrage Movement, long before the civil movement, and long before there were telephones, internet, and social media. So, it’s quite interesting to see how stories never die, scars never truly heal, and the lengths people will go to keep the harshest of secrets hidden.

    Elspeth is a mid-wife, a mother and wife, who often leaves her family for long bouts of time, before returning with money (hidden in the tips her feet). She comes home to find her family brutally murdered, and it is only when she slowly overcomes her shock, does she find herself staring at the end of a barrel. Her only remaining child lives, Caleb, who is quite innocent, ignorant, and is unprepared for the dangers outside their home.

    Told in alternating voices-Elspeth and Caleb, it is quite interesting to read as Elspeth reflects back on her life and the choices made. Elspeth and Caleb, mother and child, must try to build a relationship with one another and redeem their family by hunting for the family’s killers. Along the way, Caleb and Elspeth encounter new adventures, however James Scott never truly lets us (nor Elspeth) forget what led to that fateful day.

    This is not an easy book to digest. It won’t be read in a night or two, nor will it be something you will truly appreciate and understand, until you become as invested in Elspeth and Caleb, as they do in their own relationship. It’s a fantastic book, one that would bring vivid conversations in a book club or group setting, and will certainly have you looking at things differently, as you realize that nothing is ever as it seems.

    21 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 22, 2014

    Set in the late 1800¿s it begins by introducing us to Elspeth, a

    Set in the late 1800′s it begins by introducing us to Elspeth, a self-proclaimed sinner. At first this seems like some ritualistic, Catholic self-hate, until the truth unfolds in a masterful way. “The Kept” is a dark journey between a mother and son who barely know each other, or themselves, following a tragedy. They’re perfectly flawed and despite some of the damning revelations, you can’t help but sympathize with them.

    James Scott’s first novel conveys every level of emotion when depicting his two main characters, who both react differently to the death of their family, and to their mutual feelings of revenge. The characters are unforgettable and the adventure rife with uncertainty. I loved this novel from beginning to end for the characters, the depth and lingering feelings it left me with long after I closed it.

    Historical Fiction lovers will love “The Kept”. It has adventure, every spectrum of character and a story of a unconventional and unforgettable family.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 3, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    The Kept is James Scott's debut novel - and it has firmly establ

    The Kept is James Scott's debut novel - and it has firmly established him as a author to watch.

    1897. Upstate New York. Midwife Elspeth Howell trudges home to the isolated farmhouse that houses her husband and five children. But, as she draws closer everything is silent - no noise, no smoke, no light. They're all dead, save one - twelve year old Caleb.

    Caleb, who sleeps in the barn, who is not comfortable with the scriptures his father lives by.....and who saw the men who killed his family.

    "Caleb feared she saw his guilt, but hoped she saw how he'd changed. He would defend them, he would find those men and he would kill them for what they'd done to his family."

    Caleb was a brilliant character. It was him I became invested in. His forced entry into adulthood was hard to watch, yet impossible to turn away from. His thoughts, his unerring goal and his path there were heartbreaking.

    Elspeth is a complex character as well. The opening lines of the book are hers.

    "Elspeth Howell was a sinner. The thought passes over here like a shadow as she washed her face or caught her refection in a window or disembarked from a train after months away from home. Whenever she saw a church or her husband quoted verse or she touched the simple cross around her neck, while she fetched her bags, her transgressions lay in the hollow of her chest, hard and heavy as stone."

    I was intrigued by the isolated setting and the veiled references to the past. Elspeth's sins, and her past are slowly revealed as the book progresses - not in statements, but in a deliciously slow manner through memories and flashbacks.

    There are a number of secondary characters that are equally well drawn. And like Elspeth and Caleb, also searching. For a sense of belonging, for acceptance, for family, for wealth, for power, for revenge, for vengeance, for the will to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

    Scott is a brilliant wordsmith. He prose easily capture the starkness, grittiness, the violence and the hard life that Caleb leads. But the tendrils of hopes, dreams, desires and love are also captured. Scott's descriptions of time and place were just as evocative. I trudged through the cold with Elspeth and Caleb (actually quite easy to imagine as it's -25C. (-13F) outside right now) and saw 'civilization' for the first time through Caleb's eyes.

    I really enjoyed The Kept. I had no idea where Scott was going to take his story. I appreciate being unable to predict where a narrative will wend. I did read the ending more than once, just to make sure I understood what Scott was saying. And a few more times to see how I felt about it. It's fitting - even if it's not what I would have wanted to have happen.

    Hauntingly bleak and beautiful. And recommended. Those who enjoy Cormac McCarthy and Charles Portis's True Grit would really enjoy The Kept.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2014

    Overly descriptive almost to the point I had to put the book dow

    Overly descriptive almost to the point I had to put the book down. I would say 40% of the book was descriptions of snow, ice, snow storms, ice storms and so on. Understood after Book I section that it was winter, I didn't need 30 pages on and off to describe same. Got the hint. Wanted to like the book more that I did but it rather bored me.

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 18, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    This novel was given to me to read and review. I quite liked the

    This novel was given to me to read and review. I quite liked the time setting of the novel. It is rather a dark and disturbing book that makes you think about choices and the morality of the choices you make. It kept me interested, and guessing, but I thought the middle of the book went a little slow. There are so many layers to the book, that it should really be read and thought about. Altogether, I would recommend this to any serious reader, that like to think about what they read.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2014

    Wish I could get my money back

    The book was ok, started out strong and kept my interest. It's a strange story and the characters actions make no sense. All this could have been forgiven if not for the ridiculous ending. Pretty disappointing and I wish I could recover the time and money I spent on it.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 14, 2014

    Wow!

    This is an excellent book. The writing is so vivid, the story very original. I was enthralled from the first chapter. Highly recommend.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2014

    The Kept-- Truly engrossing from beginning to end!

    The Kept is about a mother and son who journey together to seek revenge for the killing of their family. The road they travel will take them back to the small town in which young Caleb was born. Sins of the past will tear them apart and make both mother and son face the disconnect that has defined their relationship.

    I picked this book to read in my book club and EVERYONE of us loved it and found it difficult to put down!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2014

    I was very excited to read this book.  The overview intrigued me

    I was very excited to read this book.  The overview intrigued me, however at times I was lost!  The author left many critical pieces out of the story line,.  The details were confusing.
    Reading should be easy not difficult as this book was.  The ending was very very very disappointing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2014

    Strange book with very disappointing & frustrating end.

    Did not like this book. Found it very confusing, characters' motivations were never clear. I kept reading until the end hoping for understanding. Sadly this hope was in vain. I do not recommend.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2014

    Waste of time

    So many elements that should have made the book gripping. Still, it managed to be dull. Poor character development, redundant symbolism and violence. Characters were odd and you never learned why.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2014

    Great read

    New authors that write so well give me hope for future of bookselling. Easy recommend

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    this is an exellent book

    this is an exellent book

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 3, 2014

    For me this book was a real "tweener". The writing sk

    For me this book was a real "tweener". The writing skill of the author is formidable and he has a strong story line. However, with about 30 pages left in the book I thought we had gotten somewhere with resolving the key issues of the book only to be seriously tripped up in the end. The end left me totally adrift. Are we captured by our fate so much?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2014

    It was just good enough that I kept reading, thinking it would g

    It was just good enough that I kept reading, thinking it would get better, BUT it is a great book to put you to sleep

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2014

    Interesting

    Although I felt parts of the book lingered too much on describing the snow and effects of it..I really did feel Ibenefitted from reading it because it made me think. And isnt that what good books are supposed to do? I dont think I will ever forget the character Caleb nor Elsbeth. I still am thinking of her compusion to have newborn children. Iwould reccomend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2014

    Good book well worth the read!!

    Good book well worth the read!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2014

    Very interesting.

    I enjoyed it. Would like to have known more about Elspeth's early life.

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  • Posted July 11, 2014

    I enjoyed the reading of this book and it was interesting, but t

    I enjoyed the reading of this book and it was interesting, but the end was not so good, kind of disappointing.

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  • Posted July 11, 2014

    Very good story.

    The story was very well written, however I wanted more of an ending, unless the author intends to come out with a sequel to it, which would be great.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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