Published by Picador USA on January 9th 2018
Grist Mill Road is a dark and twisty Rashomon-style narrative which is expertly plotted. The year is 1982, the setting an Edenic hamlet some 90 miles north of New York City. There, among the craggy rock cliffs and glacial ponds of timeworn mountains, three friends—Patrick, Matthew and Hannah— are bound together by a single, terrible, and seemingly senseless crime. Twenty six years later, in New York City, living lives their younger selves could never have predicted, the three meet again--with even more devastating results.
Here is a triple helix of a story structure, a sharp-edged love triangle complete with an Atonement style revelation. Character-driven, gorgeously written and wrenching, it exposes the poisonous resentments, sexual longings, and reservoirs of violence that roil just below the orderly surface of small town life. Like Yates’ critically acclaimed Black Chalk, this too is an “engrossing literary guessing game” one that will keep readers in suspense until the final page.
If you’re a friend or follower on Goodreads, you may have seen my status update at page 108:
“The jury is still out on this one. I’m not a fan of omitting quotation marks and it’s moving a little slowly.”
And this one at page 163:
“Okay, now I’m hooked.”
A brief status update at the end of the book would have looked something like this:
“Huh? What the heck?”
And that pretty much sums it up. Grist Mill Road started out slowly. Everything seemed very obvious and thought I knew where it was going. Until I didn’t. Once I didn’t, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Hence my “shopping be damned” Insta post. While I have no objection to this lead up, per se, I did think 108 pages was a few too many to have to read before all the “good stuff” started happening.
The story was told from the points of view of Hannah, Matthew, and Patrick with interspersed chapters flashing back to the horrific event of 1892 that bound them together. This worked really well for me. I love an unreliable narrator and having three made the suspense almost unbearable. I was constantly doubting each character and couldn’t wait for the truth to come out. Christopher J. Yates in an extremely talented writer in terms of both imagination and execution.
The ending, however, left me feeling somewhat frustrated. While I appreciate books that don’t have neat and tidy endings, I was a little taken aback by this one. I may have been a little more forgiving of the conclusive events themselves if not for the feelings I had about Matthew’s character. I could not reconcile 1982 Matthew with 2008 Matthew. It just seemed like something was missing.That’s all I can say without spoilers but if you read the book, please feel free to DM me for an offline discussion. I am chomping at the bit to hash it out with someone.
This book had an enormous amount of potential. While it fell a little short for me in relation to its potential, I would definitely look forward to reading Christopher J. Yate’s future novels.
Many thanks to Picador USA for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.