Lullaby Road

Lullaby Road

by James Anderson

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Overview

Winter has come to Route 117, a remote road through the high desert of Utah trafficked only by eccentrics, fugitives, and those looking to escape the world. Local truck driver Ben Jones, still in mourning over a heartbreaking loss, is just trying to get through another season of treacherous roads and sudden snowfall without an accident. But then he finds a mute Hispanic child who has been abandoned at a seedy truck stop along his route, far from civilization and bearing a note that simply reads “Please Ben. Watch my son. His name is Juan” And then at the bottom, a few more hastily scribbled words. “Bad Trouble. Tell no one.”.
 
Despite deep misgivings, and without any hint of who this child is or the grave danger he’s facing, Ben takes the child with him in his truck and sets out into an environment that is as dangerous as it is beautiful and silent. From that moment forward, nothing will ever be the same. Not for Ben. Not for the child. And not for anyone along the seemingly empty stretch of road known as Route 117.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101906545
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 01/16/2018
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 848,193
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

JAMES ANDERSON was born in Seattle, Washington and grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He is a graduate of Reed College, and received his MFA in creative writing from Pine Manor College. His first novel was The Never-Open Desert Diner. His short fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared in many magazines, including The Bloomsbury Review, New Letters, Solstice Magazine,
and others. He currently divides his time between Colorado and Oregon.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

 

A momentary silence was all that marked the passing of summer into winter. After living most of my almost forty years in the high desert of Utah, twenty driving a truck, I had come to the conclusion there were really only two seasons: hot and windy and cold and windy. Everything else was just a variation on those two.

Late in the evening I lay half-awake in my single bed and knew the silence meant the season had changed. I like to think maybe I know a thing or two about silence. Real silence is more than the absence of sound: it is something you feel. A few heartbeats earlier a steady wind scattered the leftover sounds from evening—a car passing, neighbors talking from behind closed doors, somewhere a dog barking—all the usual muffled racket of nearby lives. Then there was nothing, nothing at all, as if the desert and everyone in it had vanished and left nothing behind but an indifferent starless light.

By four a.m., when I begin my workday, winter was on its hind legs and waiting. It took longer than usual to get to the transfer station and load my truck. The time was well after five o’clock when I finally got under way, driving cautiously through the light snow and ice in the predawn darkness. My heater was blowing full blast and the bitter, dry cold hijacked the warmth from my body and cracked my skin into something akin to a hardpan lakebed. My last routine stop was to take on diesel. I had missed the morning fueling rush, if there had been one, by being either a few minutes early or a few minutes late. All of the pump islands were empty.

Cecil Boone was the manager of the Stop ‘n’ Gone Truck Stop on US 191 just outside of Price, Utah. The Stop ‘n’ Gone was a cheapo independent, stuck out alone in a patch of sand and broken rock, with the rundown look of a place that must have low prices because it didn’t have much of anything else. Cecil was a stubby, sour man in his fifties. We were inside the small convenience store and Cecil was behind the register. In the eight or so years I had been buying my diesel there, nearly every weekday, I had never seen the man smile before that snowy October morning.

There are probably lots of reasons to smile. Most folks do it every day. In my line of work I don’t see many smiles and I probably don’t give many, not even to myself. That was the way it should be. No one wants to glance up and see a truck driver grinning. My sense is that such a sight is bound to have an unsettling effect on the ordinary driver. I was quickly sorting through the reasons people smile—humor, warmth, trivial annoyance—and coming up short. It was just Cecil and me—and Cecil’s smile.

I paid for my diesel.

“Someone left something for you on Island Eight,” he said.

I asked him what.

“None of my business. Just make sure you take it with you when you leave.”

Cecil walked back toward the door of his cluttered office. “Eight,” he said over his shoulder. I thought I heard a small laugh before he closed the door. It might have been gas.

My tractor-trailer rig was parked at Island 2. Eight was on the far west side of the truck stop. I stood for a minute and looked out the window at the blowing snow. Not much accumulation. Ice beneath a thin dusting of white. The fine flakes eddied around the high arc lights of the truck stop like a scene from a low-rent snow globe. Outside I paused and glanced in the direction of Island 8. Nothing I could see.

The inside of my cab was warming up. I was in favor of getting on the road and starting my day. Who would leave something for me at a truck stop? It couldn’t be that important or valuable or it wouldn’t have been left outside. Maybe this was a joke. I could take a joke. Anytime. Later. Cecil’s smile floated in and out of the restless snow beyond my windshield. That smile, if that’s what you wanted to call it, seemed to dare me to swing by Island 8 and take a peek. No matter what Cecil said, I felt no obligation to take it with me.

I jockeyed my twenty-eight-foot tractor-trailer rig in a wide turn and slowly approached Island 8. What looked like a short pile of clothes was stacked against a battered trash can—nothing that couldn’t wait, or be ignored entirely. I began to pull through the cluster of canopied fuel pumps and kept an eye on my side mirror to be sure I cleared the concrete stanchions that protected the pumps from idiots in motorhomes and U-Hauls and once, years ago, when I was hungover, me. The clothes stirred and launched a small wisp of snow into the wind.

I set the brakes and jogged back toward the island, slipping on the ice a couple times and barely managing to stay upright. A large white dog was tightly curled into itself and raised its long nose up an inch or two as I approached. Its pink eyes followed me and then settled intently between my shoulders and head—my neck. No growl or bared teeth. This was a dog that meant business—and it knew its business well. I stopped several feet away and the two of us discussed the situation in silence.

Our conversation ended when the dog uncurled and stood, stretched, and shook the powdery snow off its fur. Its thick coat was still white. Not just white, an impossible luminous white that made the animal almost a blurred white shadow floating inside the blowing snow. The dog was also larger than I first thought, an indeterminate mix of husky and German shepherd, with maybe a little timber wolf thrown in for good measure.

A pair of black, almond-shaped eyes rose like timid fish to the surface of the furry white lake. They stared at me from behind the dog’s back. A small child.

I fell twice in my hurried march back to the building. The soles of my old Ariat roper boots were as thin as paper and just as smooth. Leaving a little kid out in a snowstorm was just the sort of thing that would draw a smile from Cecil. This was his idea of

a joke. A five-car pile-up on the interstate or a grisly hit-and-run might give him laughing fits. I was limping badly when I reached the door. It was locked.

A hastily written sign was taped at eye-level, my eye-level, about six foot four in boots. back in ten minutes. Somehow I doubted Cecil would be back until I was well down the road. I had a schedule to keep. He knew I wouldn’t wait, not ten minutes. Not even five.

After pounding on the door and yelling Cecil’s name, I kicked at the bottom of the heavy glass. My reward was another fall. If Cecil was inside he was determined not to show himself. I walked carefully back to Island 8. The dog hadn’t moved; the kid still huddled behind it. The dog moved aside and fully revealed the child, a young boy. This was permission to move closer.

I guessed the boy’s age at five or six, brown complexion and straight, black hair cut in the shape of a bowl. He was dressed only in jeans and a short-sleeved white collared shirt. His tennis shoes looked new, the kind with blinking red lights in the heels. A piece of paper was pinned to his shirt.

I took a step closer without taking my eyes off either the dog or the boy. Neither seemed afraid, though they keenly gauged my progress. The boy never took his dark eyes from mine, not even when I reached down and gently unpinned what I assumed was a note.

PLEASE BEN. BAD TROUBLE. MY SON. TAKE HIM TODAY. HIS NAME IS JUAN. TRUST YOU ONLY. TELL NO ONE. PEDRO.

The note was printed in block letters with a black marker that had bled through the flimsy paper. It was a cash register receipt. There was no mention of the dog, without which the boy might well have frozen to death. I read through it several times.

Pedro was the tire man at the truck stop. The tire shop was in an old metal building hunched behind the truck stop where the crumbling concrete turned to gravel. We were friendly in the way strangers who infrequently came in contact with each other were friendly: I knew his name and he knew mine. Not much else.

The month before I had bought new tires. They gave me a hell of a deal on brand-name rubber. Pedro and I engaged in the usual bullshit banter. He had never mentioned he had a son. I hadn’t felt shortchanged by not knowing much about him. Why he would turn to me when he was in trouble, any kind of trouble, especially entrusting me with his son, didn’t make any sense. I did not feel particularly honored by his trust.

My options were limited. Call the local cops or take him with me. If I called the police I’d have to wait for them to arrive. When they arrived there would be questions, most of which I wouldn’t be able to answer and Cecil wouldn’t be much help, if he showed up at all. When you tell cops “I don’t know,” all they ever hear is “I won’t tell you,” which in my experience always made for long and frustrating conversations.

Leaving the boy with Cecil was not an option. My guess was that Pedro had left him inside and Cecil, the sick asshole, put the kid and his dog outside in a snowstorm just for giggles. The second option had only a single downside, and it was a big one—I just didn’t want to babysit a damned little kid in my truck all day—or his dog, which I wasn’t going to take under any circumstances.

I jerked a long-handled squeegee out of its canister and flung it through the snow in the general direction of the office. It was

a pathetic gesture. The squeegee fell way short of hitting the side of the building. The icy apron of Island 6 took it without a sound. The expressions on the face of the boy and the dog did not change.

I cautiously picked up the boy and carried him to my cab and opened the door. The dog scampered past me and quickly made itself comfortable on the warm floorboard. I sat the boy on my passenger seat and grabbed two big handfuls of white fur and readied myself to yank the animal out of my cab. I would have done just that if not for those pink eyes. Those eyes asked me one simple question: How badly do you want to keep your hands? I answered by letting loose of the fur and slamming the door.

 

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Lullaby Road 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Teddy_Rose More than 1 year ago
Ben is a trucker who does deliveries in a rural desert area in Utah on highway 117. The people who live along the route are “eccentrics, fugitives, and those looking to escape the world.” One early morning he stops at the truck stop he stops at every morning to fuel up but there is a surprise waiting for him. A boy is left there with a note from an acquaintance, Pedro, asking him to look after his son and tell no one. Ben contemplates notifying the police but rules it out because he doesn’t know what kind of trouble Pedro has gotten himself into. The boy has a dog that will not leave his side so Ben gets them both in the truck. Then a woman shows up with her baby and asks him to take her for the day. They are good friends and he owes the woman his life so reluctantly he complies. Thus starts off an adventure that will change Ben forever. The child eventually needs to pee and that is when he discovers that the boy is actually a girl. Why did Pedro say “his son”? ‘Lullaby Road’ is a sequel to the book ‘The Never-open Desert Diner’ but can easily be read without reading the first book. However, you are going to want to read the first book. I haven’t but just got it and can’t wait to start reading it! ‘Lullaby Road’ is hard to put down! I was enveloped by the harsh, yet beautiful landscape, the quirky characters, and the plot. Though it is suspenseful it is written in literary prose so literary fiction lovers will get a lot out of it. I certainly did! I highly recommend this atmospheric novel and think it would be a great book club book. I also think it would make a great gift for book lovers!
wifetoalineman02 More than 1 year ago
An amazing story of a truck driver I can never imagined myself working as a truck driver especially from places that mostly out of reach of civilization. The danger that is beyond your wild imagination. This story gives me an eyesight. At first, I found it boring then it gets better. Ben, who has a heart of gold, and you can call him a hero who is willing to drive to serve friends and not only business is an amazing guy. He is trying to stay away from trouble but trouble comes to him. There are people on earth that is meanly evil. Poor Ben but am so glad he survived. This book is an emotional read. It is a beautiful story of hope and survival. I wish I read the first book so I can understand more.
JBronder More than 1 year ago
Ben Jones is back and on his normal truck route when he stops for some diesel and is told that there is something left for him. He discovers the truck stops tire man has left his child and a very protective dog for him. It seems something bad is happening to Pedro and he only trusts Ben. There is no time to really think about this so Ben takes them on his route. But there seems to be something off on his route. The people seem different toward him and it seems danger is going to come knocking soon. Lullaby Road is the sequel to The Never-Open Desert Diner. I do recommend reading that before getting into Lullaby Road, there is a lot referenced that will make more sense if you do. Ben is one of several residents on Highway 117 that have moved to the desert to get away. They all have their perks and quirks but they have made 117 their home. Ben is thrown off by having Pedro’s daughter. When he gets her he tries to find out more about what is going on but no one will talk to him. Then his 17 year old neighbor dumps her infant on him so she can go to school. Ben being Ben decides to pile everyone in his truck and heads into a snow storm for deliveries. But he is going to quickly find himself in the middle of some serious trouble. This is a good story and a great sequel to The Never-Open Desert Diner. There is a great, diverse group of characters and a good thriller. I hope that there will be another sequel. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
amybooksy More than 1 year ago
Lullaby Road is the second installment from James Anderson’s Ben Jones series. Ben Jones is driving his truck on Route 117, a remote highway in the Utah desert. On break at a gas station discovers an abandoned little Hispanic boy. The child has a note attached to him, addressed to Ben, from his friend, the boy’s father, Pedro. Pedro wants Ben to take his son and take care of him. This is a problem for Ben as he is not able to take care of the boy. He must find Pedro, who has disappeared. What a mess! Lullaby Road has a few twists and turns that I had not expected to happen. Ben gets himself into some danger that he never would have expected. There is some mystery and suspense that kept me wanting to know what was going to happen to Ben next. I had a hard time putting the book down. I only intended to read a few pages when I first sat down for a couple of minutes, but wound up finishing it hours later. Since Lullaby Road is a second installment from the Ben Jones series, I feel like I should have read the first book, The Never-Open Desert Diner, before this one. I do look forward to getting my hands on that book to see what Ben had gone through previously. I am giving Lullaby Road four and a half stars. I am hoping Ben Jones’ story is not over yet and there will be more books in the series. I received this book from the publisher. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Justine Reyes for Readers' Favorite Author James Anderson captures the tension and beauty of the Utah desert in his novel, Lullaby Road. Lullaby Road is the sequel to his first novel, The Never-Open Desert Diner, featuring series protagonist Ben Jones. In Anderson's sequel, readers follow another of Ben's adventures and misadventures as an ordinary truck driver going about his route on the long stretch of desolate road known as Highway 117. Of course, nothing is ever as ordinary as it seems. The moment I read the first line in Lullaby Road, I was hooked. I know the novel isn't supposed to be scary and it isn't, but there is a small element of horror in Anderson's novel which comes from the way he slowly builds up suspense. "Real silence is more than the absence of sound: it is something you feel." Word after word, I found myself unable to put Anderson's novel down. His main character, Ben Jones, is somewhat of a jerk, but he is decent enough to be easily likable. I think that is what made him so real to me when I was reading; there is always something tangible and pleasant about cranky men who help kids with dogs. The thing I most enjoyed about Lullaby Road was the deeply absorbing atmosphere. Anderson makes a place as barren and potentially dangerous as the desert seem so appealing, and that is something only true wordsmiths are able to do. I would recommend this novel to anyone looking to lose themselves in an unforgettable and immersive narrative.
sandrabrazier More than 1 year ago
Ben Jones drives the truck delivery route on deserted route 117 through the Utah desert. He is trying to cope with another unpredictable winter of hazardous driving conditions, when a man he hardly knows, leaves his Hispanic child for him to care for. Reluctantly, he takes the child with him on the road. As he struggles to make his deliveries on the treacherous winter road, he tries to figure out the mystery of why the man left his child behind for him to care for. He is also unsettled by the dangerous mystery of a phantom truck that drives too fast and recklessly on route 117. I did not read the book leading up to this one, and I wonder if it would have helped me to like this book more. Sadly, I was often bored with this story. I do like the main character, Ben, a lot, though. He is a kind and generous man, humble and unaware of his goodness. He was always there if someone needed him. He seemed very real to me. I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
Laeljeanne More than 1 year ago
Ben Jones delivers necessities to the “desert rats” along the way to a small, isolated town in Utah. He keep his business to himself and ask his customers no questions. One day, while getting gas at the usual station, the owner informs him that he was left a package at one of the pumps. A man Ben knows only from tire purchases has left his child, guarded by a big dog. He can’t leave them out in the winter weather. As he prepares to leave the station, his “it’s complicated” neighbor rushes her baby to him to watch for the day. He now has two children and a dog to take on his treacherous drive to deliver items necessary to survival to the people whose experiences have led them to choose a life in a harsh climate away from society. The tale reads like a day in the life of Ben Jones as he interacts with characters who barely accept him for practical purposes, though this seems a non-typical day with the children, and then his friend, the “preacher,” a victim of hit-and-run. The story moves away from the surprise babysitting, down the path of mystery driver investigation, returning to the child at the end. Ben learns more than he cares to know about the desert rats on this day, as though he’s hit a day of revelation. The child’s father ends up murdered, as does the station owner, who was part of a tire smuggling ring. This had turned into a child smuggling ring under the leadership of the out-of-town partner, a secret son of one of the desert rats. There was no clarity on the purpose of either of those criminal activities. Ben’s statement that he didn’t care to understand leaves the reader in the dark too. There’s a running reference to UPS and Fedex truck drivers who drifted from the highway during a snowstorm, but somehow found each other way out in the desert, huddling together to stay warm until rescued. This seemed to be the setup for Ben somehow finding the child in the desert after she runs away, although he specified repeatedly that she ran northeast and he figured out that he’d mistakenly gone west, so judgment cannot suspend. Saying that, the story is worth reading for all the fascinating characters, their speculative reasons for living in the desert, and their volatile interactions with Ben ad each other. Tension hangs in the environment like air….always there. I received a copy through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars I enjoyed this novel more than I had anticipated. As Ben traveled along the desert highway in his big rig, I met some of the interesting individuals he regularly encounters as he makes his deliveries. Ben has been driving the desert for around twenty years, and although the scenery hardly ever changes the individuals, the weather, and the drama that makes up are hardly ever the same. As Ben fills up his truck to begin his day, he finds that someone has left something for him at the pump. It turns out that this something is a someone, a boy who looks to be about 6 years-old. Pinned to his shirt is a note asking Ben to take care of him for the day, from a man Ben hardly knows. Confused and now stuck with company, Ben takes the boy who is now accompanied with a dog, into his rig and gets ready for a long day on the road. He’s stopped again by a close friend who shoves a baby bag and an infant in his rig. I started to wonder what type of person Ben was, a pushover or a person with a big heart who helps people out all the time? With a full rig, Ben now has to decide whether to call off this full day of deliveries or does he take everyone with him as he makes his deliveries with the winter weather outside becoming nastier by the minute. I got to know Ben as his mind wanders over the highway, his thoughts taking in the years he has traveled this countryside. The individuals he has met, the relationships that have been maintained, the ones that have been forgotten, and the ones that he has lost. As he makes his regular deliveries he looks out for his customers, some more carefully than others. There are rules of the road and I liked how not everyone respected one another yet there was this bond that put everyone on the same page. I thought Ben tried to keep to himself, yet he was there to make sure no one took advantage of others who had no voice. I think Ben tried to think he was a loner but he had friends, he had others who thought highly of him and would come to his aid if he needed it. He had a big heart but I don’t think he wanted others to know it. I really enjoyed this novel. I liked the drama on the road, I liked the countryside and the characters. I will continue reading this series but I need to go back and read the first novel in the series to see what I have missed. I received a physical copy of this novel from a Goodreads Giveaway, thank you! I also received a copy of this novel from Crown Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
Momma_Becky More than 1 year ago
From the synopsis, Lullaby Road sounded like a suspenseful thriller that I could sink my teeth into. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to that expectation. While I appreciate a good description for setting a scene, I found this book to be so overly wordy that it became tedious and so focused on those details that it left little room for the actual story. The only suspense for me lay in when the thriller part of this novel would start. As Ben travels up and down Highway 117 in Utah, we meet a rather odd mix of characters, but other than Ben’s interactions with them, they don’t seem to have much in common or any link to a mystery. On top of that, Ben is traveling with not one, but two children that belong to other people. That, in itself, had me scratching my head from the beginning. Who leaves their child to ride up and down treacherous roads with an acquaintance? There was also a number of rather ambiguous references to what turned out to be a first book that I assume leads into this sequel. Sadly, there is no reference to this in Lullaby Road’s information. I did muddle through out of sheer determination to finish this one and a hope that the story would improve. Had I read the first book in Ben’s story, or had there been a bit of explanation about those references to it, I may have been more invested in this one, but in the end, what I had was a tedious, long-winded story and a conclusion that was convoluted at best. There were also some unanswered questions that were possibly left for a future book, and I realize I'm in the minority here, but considering my experience with this one, I think I’ll skip it.
arlenadean More than 1 year ago
Title: Lullaby Road: A Novel Author: James Anderson Publisher: Crown Series: Ben Jones # 2 Reviewed By: Arlena Dean Rating: Four Review: "Lullaby Road" by James Anderson My Thoughts... Now, this was quite a interesting read about Ben Jones who runs a tractor trailer delivery service [truck driver] that traveled on Highway 117 that was a desolate Utah desert making deliveries to people in isolated areas. Ben was known to deliver packages to 'desert rats, hardscrabble ranchers and other assorted exiles who chose to live off 117." Now, this route that Ben took I found it interesting to know that Fed Ex and UPS would not drive on this snow-blinding road. What Ben finds while on his journeys will definitely keep your interest as it seems he kept getting himself involved in bad situations like finding a note that leads him to take charge of a small child [mute] and a large protective dog and also ending up when a friend and neighbor who leaves their young [bawling] infant with him so she could go to work. Now, I really found this rather strange when Ben piles them all in his truck and takes off to work going his normal route however, he ends up in a snow storm. This story will continue on as this author gives the readers one intriguing and entertaining story ...from hit & run, bad weather [snow drifts], interactions with gun toting customers, abandoned child, child smuggling ring, preacher who carries a cross along the highway, accidents, three witches, Mexican women with food truck, and even some murders that happen along route 117. As every truck stop was made this author gives us a complete unfolded story with there being a lots going on with there being just a small group of people that are involved.To fully understand this entire story you will have to pick up "Lullaby Road" to see just how this author brings it out to the reader. Be ready for a story will some laughable, scary and sad twist and turn parts of the read that will definitely keep you turning the pages to see what was coming next in this good read where in the end you will also find it 'engrossing, heartwarming and heartbreaking.' I received a copy of Lullaby Road from the publisher through Blogging for Books.
18876111 More than 1 year ago
*I received this for an honest review from NetGalley* This book had me hooked from the beginning, it's one of those books that is so hard to put down. I loved the story, the characters, and the connections that the characters shared together. I also loved the small town feel that this book has.