Ben is a delivery driver, bringing sundry items to a forgotten stretch of road in the Utah desert. His days as a driver are likely numbered if he isn’t able to collect some of the money owed to him, but he can’t bear to pressure the odd assortment of people on his route.
Walt is grumpy old man who tinkers with his vintage motorcycles. He owns the Well-Known Desert Diner that is almost never open. A pristine, retro roadside stop, Walt only gets behind the counter for certain people. Ben is one of the few people Walt will talk to — sometimes.
On a long stretch, Ben suspects he is being set up for a theft so he pulls into an abandoned neighborhood in an effort to throw them off. He accidentally finds a woman named Claire holed up in one of the empty homes. Confused and enchanted, he adds her temporary home to his list of stops.
The book begins with a moody, noir style. Ben sounds like the voice-over narrator of a 1940s crime movie. The tone slides into a more modern-day rhythm (unfortunately, I think). He fulfills the trope of lonely, philosophical, hard-working guy who can’t quite get his life together but won’t stand for injustice to others.
I pulled away from the diner explaining it that way to myself with the hope that by the end of the week it would seem like it had been a smart decision. If it didn’t work out that way, I promised myself there would be no blaming the devil. When we mortals pray for a miracle and get one, why do we always assume it came from God? Strings. That’s why. We think there are no strings attached to a miracle from God. But GoD has more strings than that devil. The devil at least tells you up front what the strings are. ~Pg. 80
Ben finds himself slowly circling the drain in his personal life at the same time he becomes pulled into the drama of others. The climax gets a bit convoluted, again unsure of its own place in the genre — noir, modern crime, existential crisis? Its strength is in the setting and the slow burn of the strange inhabitants.
Many thanks to Crown Publishing for the review copy.
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Crown (March 22, 2016)
Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches