The Never-Open Desert Diner – James Anderson

 

51VQoeZpk7LFrom the jacket:

Ben Jones lives a quiet, hardscrabble life, working as a trucker on Route 117, a little-travelled road in a remote region of the Utah desert which serves as a haven for fugitives and others looking to hide from the world. For many of the desert’s inhabitants, Ben’s visits are their only contact with the outside world, and the only landmark worth noting is a once-famous roadside diner that hasn’t opened in years.

Ben’s routine is turned upside down when he stumbles across a beautiful woman named Claire playing a cello in an abandoned housing development. He can tell that she’s fleeing something in her past—a dark secret that pushed her to the end of the earth—but despite his better judgment he is inexorably drawn to her.

As Ben and Claire fall in love, specters from her past begin to resurface, with serious and life-threatening consequences not only for them both, but for others who have made this desert their sanctuary. Dangerous men come looking for her, and as they turn Route 117 upside down in their search, the long-buried secrets of those who’ve laid claim to this desert come to light, bringing Ben and the other locals into deadly conflict with Claire’s pursuers. Ultimately, the answers they all seek are connected to the desert’s greatest mystery—what really happened all those years ago at the never-open desert diner?

The Never-Open Desert Diner is an incredible account of life out in a remote desert in Utah. Anderson weaves an unforgettable and mysterious tale full of suspense, action, and romance. The inhabitants of Highway 117 are a diverse bunch of noteworthy characters, full of secrets, and not soon to be forgotten. I’ve never read anything quite like Anderson’s debut novel. His writing is beautiful, poignant and perfectly paced, and once I picked this book up, I could not put it down.

As always, I’m going to go into more detail after the jump. Read on at your own discretion, though there are no major spoilers.

Ben Jones keeps to himself mostly. He spends the majority of his days alone in his rig, speaking only to the customers he serves along the way. The inhabitants of 117 make up a family in a way that only life, circumstance and location can. He cares deeply about each and every one of them, and despite the fact that he’s in so much debt he can no longer keep the lights on, Ben cannot imagine walking away from the life he’s created there.

The story is full of some of my all-time favorite characters. At the top of the list is Walt, the owner of a once famous diner that is no longer ever open. Walt is as tough as nails and the true definition of a badass. While I was reading him, I was hearing the voice of Bert from the We’re Alive podcast. There is also Ginny, the pregnant, teenage daughter of one of Ben’s ex-girlfriends. She’s smart, driven, confident, and sassy in all the best ways. The Lacey brothers live (very inexplicably) in a couple of boxcars seventy-five miles away from any known railroad tracks. The list of characters goes on and on. Ben brings them what they need, never asking any questions, and everyone prefers it that way.

One day, everything is turned upside down when Ben (very unexpectedly) sees a woman inside a house in an abandoned development. As shocked and confused as he is to find her there, her face is unforgettable and he cannot stop thinking about her. At first he’s sure he has imagined her there, just another mirage in the desert. But as the days go by he finds himself making excuses to drive by the house in the hopes of another chance encounter. As the two get to know each other, life starts to get crazy for everyone on 117, and their long buried secrets begin to rise to the surface.

 

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Can we talk for a minute about how gorgeous this jacket is? It is without a doubt one of my all-time favorites.

Final Thoughts: I love this book in every way that you can love a book. The writing is wonderful, the story is weaved so expertly, and the characters are insanely great. This is the kind of book that everyone can enjoy. You don’t need to love a certain genre to get into it. It has a little bit of everything, and I think everyone will get something out of it. Definitely do yourself a favor and pick this one up. I truly cannot wait to see what else Anderson will come up with. You can read more about the author here.

Rating: Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.58.06 PM

Favorite Characters: Ben, Ginny, Walt

Memorable Quotes:

Imagination is one of the few things a man can count on if he’s got the reality to feed it.

The marvel of her smile was watching it travel toward her mouth, like a freight train picking up speed as it dropped down a mountain grade. It began with a slight wrinkle high on her forehead and then spread into her dark eyes. From there, the smile descended to her lips, where it burst into full view with all the momentum of her body behind it.

This was the desert, everything all at once, whether it was needed or not. What survived had learned to save, live carefully, and keep a low profile, even appear to be dead for long periods. Perseverance and patience.

Out in the desert what doesn’t kill you just pisses you off and will probably kill you the next time.

A look passed between the two men. I felt it graze the side of my head. It was that kind of look.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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