Book Review: Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates

Grist Mill Road
Christopher J. Yates
Picador, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-2501-5028-8
Hardcover

From the publisher:  1982:  In an Edenic hamlet some ninety miles north of New York City, among craggy rock cliffs and glacial ponds of timeworn mountains, three teenage friends – – Patrick, Matthew, and Hannah – – are bound together by a terrible crime.  2008:   In New York City, living lives their younger selves never could have predicted, the three meet again – – with even more devastating results.  What really happened in those woods twenty-six years ago?

The answer to that question is not made clear to the reader until very near the end of this novel, in what Patrick calls “the final part of a letter I’ll never send,” followed by the words “August 18, 1982.  The clearing. The truth.”

This is a novel that displays varying emotions, including love, anger, and jealousy, and abusive relationships, in a very affecting manner.    Part I begins from the p.o.v. of Patrick, whose nicknames includes Patch, the name he is most frequently called in these pages.  He is twelve years old as the tale begins, which it does in a forest area, where his friend, Matthew, whose nickname for Patrick is “Tricky,” who on the opening pages is shooting Patrick’s Red Ryder BB gun into a tied-up Hannah, their friend, 49 times, the forty-ninth and final time into and through her eye, leaving her of course blind in that eye but, almost miraculously, alive, her left eye socket looking “like it was housing a dark smashed plum.”  Years later, he thinks back and muses “How did that make me feel, having watched a girl tied to a tree and shot forty-nine times?  Flesh, blood, death.”  Further thinking that “at the time, Matthew just felt like an older brother to me – – even more so than my actual older brother.  I feared him and loved him in equal measure.”

The next chapter takes place in New York, in the year 2008.  Patrick is  38 years old and suddenly jobless.  He is now married to Hannah, who tends to have nightmares from which Patrick calms and soothes her.  They have been married for four years, and Hannah is a crime reporter.  Patrick is a food blogger and a gourmet chef.  The story has twists and turns, with varying chapters told from the p.o.v. of each of our protagonists, whose relationships are complex, to say the least.  This is a tale and characters the reader won’t soon forget, and the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, January 2018.

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