Short Take: “Lullaby Road,” James Anderson

Pros: Fascinating little desert town
Cons: Ending loses its mooring a bit
Rating: 4 out of 5

Lullaby Road, by James Anderson, centers around truck driver and somewhat-thug Ben. He becomes babysitter for a day when someone leaves a child and dog out in the cold for him, and a friend of his drops her baby on him with little notice. It isn’t a comedy, though, as this desperate little desert town goes a bit mad. Someone hits a street preacher with their car and takes off again–but things aren’t as simple as they seem. The (father?) of the child Ben is forced to take in, Pedro, disappears–how and why? Another man who employs Pedro turns up dead. Someone tries to finish off the preacher–who and why?

Poor Ben. He’s a simple guy who wants a simple life, but he’s just a slice too good to turn away when others need his help, and it gets him into all sorts of trouble. He’s already had a variety of run-ins with local police, who largely think of him as a thug (it’s true he tends to solve problems with his fists), so he’s starting with a handicap. Luckily he has friends, some of whom are willing to do things like help look after mysterious children.

Unfortunately, the ending goes a bit off-track. It’s interesting, but somewhat mysterious and vague, whereas the rest of the book tended to be grounded in physical detail and a very down-to-earth character. Maybe if the change had been more gradual, or there had been more surrealism in the rest of the book, it would have felt natural. Instead it felt like I drifted into a different book when I wasn’t looking.

 

Book provided by publisher for review

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