The Kept by James Scott
It's 1897 in upstate New York in the dead of winter when midwife Elspeth Howell returns to her home to find her husband and all of her children shot and killed. As she starts to clean up the house and get a fire going, she is blasted back from a shot. Elspeth's only surviving son hid in the closet and, thinking the murderers had returned, shot through the door. Realizing it's his mom, 12-year-old Caleb quickly gets to work on digging out the pellets and making sure his mom survives the night. She pulls through and the two set out on a quest to find the men who did this.
Their quest takes them to a town where Caleb was born, and he realizes a secret that his mom has been keeping for him. As the two try to find revenge, they also must find work to sustain themselves. Elspeth working as a man picking at ice and Caleb at a brothel, knowing that the murderers have been seen there.
This story was about many different things: family, revenge, sin, redemption, and winter. It's not often that you read a book where the cold seeps through the pages. The times are bleak and cold, the characters are bleak and cold, and their surroundings the same. Scott did an excellent job of tying all these together with the winter theme.
The characters were a bit difficult to get used to. Caleb, the 12 year old who had never seen the world was the most realistic. He wanted revenge for his family and answers from his mom. While I felt that the question should be whether Caleb could lose his innocence to take revenge, at times this question seemed to drop away which didn't make much sense to me. The bigger question mark of characters was the mom Elspeth. She seemed to just be a drifter and have no true convictions. She seemed to just follow along with her son for wanting revenge but I wasn't convinced of the reason because she was rather wishy-washy on it.
If the ending had knocked me off my socks I think I could have forgiven Elspeth for her lack of conviction throughout the story, but in the end it all fell rather flat for me.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for including me on this book tour!
First Line: "Elspeth Howell was a sinner."