Old Wounds of the Heart, a novel by Ken Oder

Ken Oder._UX250_I want to tell you about a novel I just finished. Reading it was a thrilling experience. Not because it is a thriller, because you know I read a lot of those, but because it is a work of art, or poetry, or beauty and all of the above. To slip it soundly into a specific genre would be doing it a disservice. It is historical – 1960’s. It is romantic, but not a romance. There is some mystery because the reader has to wonder if the main character will survive. I guess this is a literary novel.

Sometimes I’m privileged to be able to receive a novel to read and review before the novel is published. Sometimes I get these from Net Galley and sometimes I get these from author’s or their representatives. I don’t solicit novels for review any longer. I found that I was reading things I didn’t enjoy, not because the work was awful but because it was a genre I don’t normally read.

When Ken Oder’s editor asked if I would read this book I grabbed at the chance. I’ve read his other novel, The Closing, and liked it.

Old Wounds of the Heart is nothing like The Closing but I probably liked it just as much or more. The writing is simply beautiful. For instance, listen to this:

Toby pulled into the dirt lot beside the store. It was a rectangular frame box with peeling paint. Smoke curled from its stovepipe and the morning rain still dripped from rusty gutters that clung desperately to the roof line by scattered nails. The storefront was a concrete porch with a single gas pump in front of it. Two long wooden benches sat on the porch on each side of the door. Four rotting wooden pillars buckled under the weight of the porch’s sagging roof. The old store had already been remodeled and repaired a hundred times, and another facelift was overdue.

The author takes you back in time to a place in a rural Virginia town and gently revealed parts and pieces of its topography and people.

The story is not a gentle one. It is about some old friends who were going to go to their cabin up the mountain, until a few of them declared they are too old to continue to participate. That night one of the old men, Billy, is almost asleep in his bed, is awakened by noises, then confronted by a ski-masked intruder with a gun. What happens next is an edge of your seat read. The conclusions are a complete surprise. The things Billy has done to some of his friends and family produces a lot of regret and worse.

The emotional range portrayed by the characters as they each struggle with memories or consequences of the same  events brought me to tears or smiles. I am reminded that all our actions bring consequences even heart wounding ones.

Find it on Amazon now.

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