Dirt Road: A Novel by James Kelman
The new novel by the Booker Prize-winning author of How Late it Was, How Late.
A "What to Read Right Now" selection in Vanity Fair
"A kid is trying to overcome his grief without forgetting about it: a contradiction that serves more generally for what's involved in being an immigrant, or in growing up. And Dirt Road is about all of those things." —Benjamin Markovitz, The New York Times Book Review
“A powerful meditation on loss, life, death, and the bond between father and son. . . . Kelman has created a fully-realized, relatable voice that reveals a young man’s urgent need for connection in a time of grief." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Beautifully rendered. . . . A rich tale of family, dislocation, the joys of creativity, and the torment of painful choices.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Kelman has written a moving tribute to the unbreakable bond between fathers and sons." —Booklist (starred review)
After his mother’s recent death, sixteen-year old Murdo and his father travel from their home in rural Scotland to Alabama to be with his American aunt and émigré uncle for a few weeks. Stopping at a small town on their way from the airport, Murdo happens upon a family playing zydeco music and joins them, leaving with a gift of two CDs of southern American songs. “Ye meet people and they have lives, but ye don’t,” thinks Murdo, an aspiring musician.
While at their kind relatives’ house, the grieving father and son share no words of comfort with each other, Murdo losing himself in music and his reticent and protective dad in books. The aunt, “the very very best,” Murdo calls her, provides whatever solace he receives, until his father comes around in a scene of great emotional release.
As James Wood has written in The New Yorker, “The pleasure, as always in Kelman, is being allowed to inhabit mental meandering and half-finished thoughts, digressions and wayward jokes, so that we are present” with his characters. Dirt Road is a powerful story about the strength of family ties, the consolation of music, and one unforgettable journey from darkness to light.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James Kelman was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1989 with his novel, A Disaffection, which also won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. He went on to win the Booker Prize five years later with How Late it Was, How Late: Stories, before being shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2009 and 2011. He has taught at the University of Texas, Austin, and San José State University in California. Kelman was born in Glasgow, Scotland, where he currently lives.