The Kept

The Kept

A Novel

Book - 2014
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After her husband and four of her children are brutally murdered in the winter of 1897, midwife Elspeth Howell, along with her surviving son, twelve-year-old Caleb, takes on the frozen wilderness to find the men responsible for shattering their family
Publisher: New York : Harper, [2014]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780062236654
Characteristics: 357 pages ; 24 cm


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May 06, 2016


16/4 - Even without reading a word of this I get a really strong feeling of (most likely unsuspicious) similarity between this and the movie The Missing. Except it's a son who is left behind instead of a daughter and they go on a journey of revenge instead of a rescue mission - it's about the feeling, not the details.

The idea that while I'm out or away from home my whole family will die (probably not due to murder by bandits) sometimes worries me, so this book has already grabbed me by the emotions, just from the blurb. To be continued...

Later - Page 43 - That poor owl, I think that's the saddest part of the whole book so far, even over the murders.
Page 56 - That's a revelation! When Elspeth talked about being a sinner at the beginning of the book I figured she was being overly dramatic (you know, she's a sinner because of lustful, covetous, envious, etc. thoughts). I never expected her to be putting it lightly when she called herself a sinner. She's more than a sinner, it seems, she's an outright criminal. To be continued...

21/4 - This was a really good book, a solid 4 stars, for the first 99% and then it was all down hill for that last 1%. That was a really bad ending to a great book. There was the slow unravelling of Elspeth's story running in the background to the main focus of the book, the hunt for the murderers, and the final reveal of all of her secrets and sins was done perfectly. But then we come to the final scene and the vagueness surrounding who was dead and who wasn't and Caleb's sudden ambivalence regarding justice for his family and punishment for the murderers. Caleb's thoughts as he watched out the window don't seem to gel with his previous personality. He seemed to give up, and I kept telling him "Go back down there, save your mother if possible and then go outside, take the last two Millards by surprise and shoot them before they shoot you." It should have been that simple, but Scott wanted to leave the reader guessing, or wanting more, or some crap like that and so we end up with an inferior ending to a really enjoyable book.

Nov 16, 2015

A strange strange book. Very odd characters in it. A mother who is so intense & yet so uncaring at the same time. She steals babies but it appears that once they are no longer babies they don't matter. Supposedly a story of revenge but it really has so little to do with the bleak journey Elspeth & Caleb go on. It exposes only all their faults & then it ends on a bit of a non event. No, I don't recommend it.

Aug 10, 2015

Good winter book to read. Lovely prose. A dark tale, but well done.

Chapel_Hill_KenMc Nov 09, 2014

This is a gritty and grim tale of consuming revenge and crushing remorse. Slow-paced and methodical, it may take awhile to grow on you, but as the characters develop in their very confined universe--a small town in rural 19th-century New York--the suspense builds as they try to come to terms with the horrifying events of their pasts.

nelson21 Sep 22, 2014


Jul 06, 2014

This was really a strange novel. It was suspenseful, in that I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened. But it was also very depressing and maybe a little far-fetched. For example, Elspeth seems to be able to live through gun shot wounds, fights, working hard, manual labor and traveling by foot farther than humanly possible, and yet she dies a simple death in the end.
I'm not really sure how I felt about it -- good or bad, so I'm giving it 3 stars.

ValleyViewLibrarians Jun 14, 2014

Atmospheric and filled with vivid imagery, Scott's debut novel tells a compelling tale of deception, loyalty, family, and revenge. <emorable, well-drawn characters and a harsh winter landscape dominate the tone of the book and readers will find themselves immersed in this bleak but gorgeously written novel. Although set in the Northeast, Scott's writing will appeal to fans of literary Westerns, especially Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy and Philip Meyer's "The Son."

JCLJaredH May 16, 2014

James Scott created a dark yet lyrical story of a mother and son trying to find themselves after the massacre of their family. There are so many things wrapped into this story: secrets, revenge, mystery, survival, coming of age, redemption, etc. In many ways it is a late nineteenth century version of The Road. A good read for fans of Cold Mountain.

Apr 27, 2014

Well written bleak story of a midwife whose past come backs to haunt her and destroy her family. Along with her son she seeks revenge her families destruction but along the way we find she is no innocent.

Mar 16, 2014

Well. This was certainly a...different sort of historical novel. I found the style lyrical and the tone haunting, and it served as a good action-mystery sort of book. The question you might ask is, how far would you go to have a child or a family? The novel's character Elspeth
Howell works as a midwife but seems to obsessively steal the children she delivers. One section of the novel has Elspeth dressing as a man to work at an ice plant, in a very Norah Vincent Self-Made Man fashion, but The Kept is a beautifully written novel that explores the relationships between broken, damaged people.

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Jul 08, 2014



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