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Lullaby Road

Review

Lullaby Road

You might have missed a book published a few years ago that bore the intriguing title THE NEVER-OPEN DESERT DINER. That worthy novel introduced a truck driver named Ben Jones and a cast of unforgettable supporting characters, all of whom populated a Utah state highway named Route 117. Author James Anderson has now seen fit to return to that area with the newly published LULLABY ROAD, which meets and exceeds the promise of its predecessor.

Anderson does a terrific job of bringing those new to his version of Route 117 up to speed on what has occurred before in Ben’s world. We find Ben still quietly but deeply affected by the sudden trauma visited upon him and the loss that he had experienced in the prior novel. This has not stopped him from engaging in his work of delivering goods to the scattered individuals who, for various reasons, live in uneasy isolation on the edges of the Utah desert. “Eccentric” is the word that one reaches for, but it doesn’t quite cover Ben’s commercial acquaintances. What is equally as riveting is the look the reader gets at the harsh, unforgiving environment through which Ben drives.

"LULLABY ROAD, like life itself, does not end entirely neatly or happily. Unanswered questions remain, which provide Anderson with more than enough reason to return to Ben Jones and Route 117 for at least one more volume."

LULLABY ROAD is set during the Utah winter, which most of us never have the occasion to think about. Anderson’s descriptions of the dangers that the climate imposes upon driving --- through Ben’s first-person narrative --- are enough to make the reader consider, however momentarily, giving up driving altogether while instilling a respect for the folks who operate tractor-trailers every day. As we also learn from Ben, strange things happen in the area. At the beginning of his day, he makes his usual visit to a truck stop and finds that a very unusual package has been left for him: a mute Hispanic child and a dog, accompanied by an enigmatic note from someone who is less an acquaintance and more of a stranger to him. Ben has grand misgivings about taking the boy --- not to mention the dog --- with him, but it quickly develops that he has no choice.

As Ben eventually learns, the child is the nexus of a series of mysterious happenings that take place on and around Route 117, where crimes occur far off the radar of overworked and thinly spread law enforcement and the residents, most of whom live off the grid by choice. Each and all have secrets from their own pasts that they conceal and hold close against the present. Almost in spite of himself, Ben becomes the child’s protector, but as the book heads toward its violent and catastrophic conclusion, it becomes clear that it is the boy who ultimately protects Ben.

LULLABY ROAD, like life itself, does not end entirely neatly or happily. Unanswered questions remain, which provide Anderson with more than enough reason to return to Ben Jones and Route 117 for at least one more volume. As for what we have in the present, Anderson’s cinematic narrative begs for an adaptation in the form of a movie or television series. Fans of “Twin Peaks” or Fargo (the film or the amazing FX anthology series) will find much to love here. Jump on Ben’s bumper now while it’s early.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 9, 2018

Lullaby Road
by James Anderson

  • Publication Date: January 16, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown
  • ISBN-10: 1101906545
  • ISBN-13: 9781101906545