Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:
Murdo, a teenager obsessed with music, dreams of a life beyond his Scottish island home. His dad Tom has recently lost his wife and stumbles towards the future, terrified of losing control of what remains of his family life
Both are in search of something as they set out on an expedition into the American South.
As they travel they encounter a new world and we discover whether the hopes of youth can conquer the fears of age.
Dirt Road is a major novel exploring the brevity of life, the agonising demands of love and the lure of the open road. It is also a beautiful book about the power of music and all that it can offer.
'The truth is he didn't care how long he was going away. Forever would have suited him. It didn't matter it was America.' Murdo, a teenager obsessed with music, wishes for a life beyond the constraints of his Scottish island home and dreams of becoming his own man. Tom, battered by loss, stumbles backwards towards the future, terrified of losing his dignity, his control, his son and the last of his family life. Both are in search of something new as they set out on an expedition into the American South. On the road we discover whether the hopes of youth can conquer the fears of age.
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Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
Kelman's (How Late It Was, How Late) peregrinating novel is a powerful meditation on loss, life, death, and the bond between father and son. Sixteen-year-old Murdo and his father travel from Scotland to America to visit an aunt and uncle living in Alabama. As the family grapples with the recent death of Murdo's mother, the father and son find it increasingly difficult to speak with one another. Their interactions are an accumulation of near misses-attempts and failures to communicate in the midst of loss. As we explore the American South through the eyes of a thoughtful Scottish teenager, we see it afresh-the severe weather, racial tensions, zydeco music. Murdo, an aspiring musician, is enthralled by his encounters with American people on American land, and his growing connection to these new surroundings mirrors his struggle to cope with a loss that seems almost impossible for him to comprehend. Throughout the novel, Murdo's observations are prone to long, circuitous paths, but they are strikingly astute. Like in his previous works, Kelman has created a fully-realized, relatable voice that reveals a young man's urgent need for connection in a time of grief. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Kelman (If It Is Your Life, 2014) earned praise, if not quite the fame he richly deserves, by writing about Scots in Scotland. In recent years, he has written about Scots in America. In his latest novel, the main characters, two of the most appealing creations in his canon, are a father and Murdo, his self-aware teenage son from rural Scotland. After his mother's death, Murdo and his father travel to Alabama to visit Murdo's Scots uncle and American aunt. At the Amsterdam airport, waiting for the plane to Memphis, Murdo observes, Not one Scottish voice apart from him and Dad. Different people from all different parts of the world. Dirt Road is full of unobtrusive observations, touching on such issues as poverty, race, and the potential for violence. Soon after arriving in the U.S., Murdo is smitten by a family playing zydeco music in a small town. In typical Scottish fashion, a lot of what goes on between the grieving father and son is left unsaid. Instead, they turn to their respective modes of comfort: music for Murdo, books for his father. Kelman has written a moving tribute to the unbreakable bond between fathers and sons.--Sawyers, June Copyright 2017 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
An award-winning Scottish author sets his coming-of-age story in the U.S. South, where a father and son on holiday from rural Scotland discover life can be as wrenching as death.Murdo is nearly 17, as he often says, for 16 sounds much younger. He's just shy of official adulthood, a time when it's hard to meet expectations while seeking whatever self seems right. He still feels deeply the recent death of his mother from cancer and his sister's death from the same malady seven years earlier. On the trip to a small Alabama town where relatives have settled, it's soon clear Murdo yields easily to distractions and nettles his fretful father. When the boy's wandering mind and body cause them to miss a bus connection, Murdo meets an African-American family and makes an impression playing the accordion, his regular instrument in a band back home. He slowly comes to envision a possible future with music in America that sounds miles better than his father's agenda of schlumping back to Scotland and repeating a year of school because of poor grades. Kelman (A Lean Third, 2014, etc.), who won the 1994 Booker Prize for How Late It Was, How Late, puts his skill with interior monologue to work here, delivering a lot of the book through Murdo's thoughtswhich can be delightful and a bit tiresome. Still, they offer intimate access to a young man facing huge choices amid new family situations, cultural oddities, and his father's constant lectures on poor manners. Their shared pain, efforts to understand each other, and slow acceptance of inevitable change are beautifully rendered. Kelman also conveys a gifted artist's keen sensitivity to music as a treasured craft and maybe another kind of family. A rich tale of family, dislocation, the joys of creativity, and the torment of painful choices. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.