Book Title and Author: November Road by Lou Berney
Publication Date and Publisher: October 9, 2018 by William Morrow
Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 320 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: September 24, 2018 (e-arc)
Frank Guidry’s luck has finally run out.
A loyal street lieutenant to New Orleans’ mob boss Carlos Marcello, Guidry has learned that everybody is expendable. But now it’s his turn—he knows too much about the crime of the century: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Within hours of JFK’s murder, everyone with ties to Marcello is turning up dead, and Guidry suspects he’s next: he was in Dallas on an errand for the boss less than two weeks before the president was shot. With few good options, Guidry hits the road to Las Vegas, to see an old associate—a dangerous man who hates Marcello enough to help Guidry vanish.
Guidry knows that the first rule of running is “don’t stop,” but when he sees a beautiful housewife on the side of the road with a broken-down car, two little daughters and a dog in the back seat, he sees the perfect disguise to cover his tracks from the hit men on his tail. Posing as an insurance man, Guidry offers to help Charlotte reach her destination, California. If she accompanies him to Vegas, he can help her get a new car.
For her, it’s more than a car— it’s an escape. She’s on the run too, from a stifling existence in small-town Oklahoma and a kindly husband who’s a hopeless drunk.
It’s an American story: two strangers meet to share the open road west, a dream, a hope—and find each other on the way.
Charlotte sees that he’s strong and kind; Guidry discovers that she’s smart and funny. He learns that’s she determined to give herself and her kids a new life; she can’t know that he’s desperate to leave his old one behind.
Another rule—fugitives shouldn’t fall in love, especially with each other. A road isn’t just a road, it’s a trail, and Guidry’s ruthless and relentless hunters are closing in on him. But now Guidry doesn’t want to just survive, he wants to really live, maybe for the first time.
Everyone’s expendable, or they should be, but now Guidry just can’t throw away the woman he’s come to love.
And it might get them both killed.
What drew me to November Road is that it’s set in the days on and following the assassination of JFK, and I’m drawn to books with anything related to the Kennedys. While this book didn’t focus on what happened that fateful day in Dallas on November 22, 1963, the murder of JFK is the trigger for events that lead two people from completely different walks of life to leave their existing lives and go on the run for the chance at a brand new life.
Frank Guidry is a handsome ladies man who is high up in the mob and thinks he’s invaluable to mob boss, Carlos Marcello. Or so he thinks until he hears that JFK has been killed and his mind immediately thinks of a certain car he dropped off in Dallas just days ago–a car Marcello now wants him to get rid of for good. It’s clear Marcello is cleaning up all ties to the assassination, and Frank knows he’s the next loose end. Running is his only alternative but how long can he possibly outrun a man with such a long and powerful reach?
Charlotte Roy is tired of feeling suffocated by her marriage to an alcoholic husband and by her hometown that hasn’t changed in decades. She wants to prove to herself and her two daughters that she’s a strong woman and can stand on her own two feet, so she makes the spur-of-the-moment decision to take her kids and make a run to LA for a better life. It’s a decision she doesn’t regret until her car breaks down on the side of the road, and it looks like her dreams of escape and independence are nothing but a short-lived fantasy. Then along comes Frank offering to save her as long as she’ll come along on a detour to Vegas. He brings adventure, suspense, mystery, and a bit of romance along for the ride (little does she know he has so much to hide)!
November Road is so much more than I expected when I started to read it, and I’m so glad that it was so much more than I imagined! I’d never read a book by Lou Berney before, which is my loss since he writes books that read so effortlessly and realistically. His writing is so intelligent, fluid, and expressive about an age that was filled with such dramatic and world-altering changes. JFK’s assassination marked a true end of an era and the changes these characters go through seem to reflect those changes in an almost poignant way.
I found the novel to be a fascinating character study of Frank and Charlotte, as well as to some degree the other minor players in the novel. Frank’s not a character who you want to like at first, but there’s just something about him that makes you root for him. Maybe it’s because he’s being set up by the very people he trusts not to betray him, which is funny to say about a mafia guy, a killer. But then along comes Charlotte and her girls into his life and you see a completely different side to this man, one who is seemingly at heart a lost soul looking for salvation. Charlotte’s independence and fight for escape seem almost to symbolize the era when changes in men and women’s roles were really starting to shift into a fight for women’s rights and more independence.
I think this is a book that will appeal to so many types of readers! It’s cleverly plotted and written, it’s historical fiction, it’s a thriller, it has lots of action, the character studies are phenomenal, and it has just the right amount of romance! I can’t tell you how glad I am that I read it, and I highly recommend it! November Road comes out on October 9, 2018, so make sure you grab a copy!
**Thank you Edelweiss and William Morrow for an ARC to read in exchange for my fair and honest review.**