Grist Mill Road

"I remember the gunshots made a wet sort of sound, phssh phssh phssh, and each time he hit her she screamed.... I just stood there and watched." That is quite an opening. The shock and tension could be difficult to sustain, but not for Christopher Yates (Black Chalk). The hits, metaphorical and physical, keep coming in this story of three young friends in 1982--Patrick, Matthew and Hannah--and what happens 26 years later.

When Patrick, known as Patch, was 12, he watched while Matthew repeatedly shot Hannah, who was tied to a tree. With the 49th and final BB shot through her eye, he declared her dead and left. But Patch realized that she was not dead and had not seen him, so he untied her and helped her down the hill.

In 2008, Hannah is a crime reporter in New York and married to Patch, who has lost his job in finance. As tough as Hannah is professionally, she relies on Patch to get her through her nightmares: "Don't let him hurt me.... You promise you won't let him hurt me?" He always comforts her, but doesn't promise--how can he, when he broke the promise 26 years ago? He's waited his whole life to make amends, to become the hero, but his life is now unwinding.

As for Matthew, he says, "Truth is seldom a lens, truth is a kaleidoscope, and I have my truth, too." Given three realities, Christopher Yates asks: What is truth? What is redemption? In the stunning Grist Mill Road, the answers are disorienting and surprising. --Marilyn Dahl

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