Ben Jones lives a quiet, hardscrabble life, working as a trucker on Route 117, a little-traveled 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?
In this unforgettable story of love and loss, Ben learns the enduring truth that some violent crimes renew themselves across generations. At turns funny, heartbreaking and thrilling, The Never-Open Desert Diner powerfully evokes an unforgettable setting and introduces readers to a cast of characters who will linger long after the last page. @goodreads
Sometimes I read blurbs to books and think they sound like something I would like.. sometimes I'm wrong and I don't like them as much, other times I'm shocked at how much I love them. This is one of those books. I fell in love with the book and so many of the characters. It's not some big action book, it's not some big romance book, it's just a book about the lives of people that are pretty much living off the grid or trying to get by. It's about things that go horribly wrong, people are hurt, killed... All I can say for sure is this book reached out and touched me. I don't care if other people love it or hate it, reading is about what you love and what you don't like.
This book is about Ben Jones, a private trucker who has been making deliveries on Route 117 in the desert for 20 years. He takes things to people off the beaten track, people that are real, people that are just living however they choose. Ben's company, Ben's Desert Moon Delivery Service, is just him and his truck. He has a contract to deliver for FedEx and UPS and other various things anyone else needs shipped. Ben has so many customers that he knows so well, I mean after so long you would, wouldn't you?
One of the main characters in the book on Ben's route is Walt Butterfield, he own's the Well-Known Desert Diner and he lives in a hut connected to the diner. Walt hasn't opened the dinner in years because of a very tragic event.
Walt's motorcycle collection totaled nine of the finest and rarest beasts ever to have graced the roadways of America and Europe. Among them was his first, a 1948 Vincent Black Shadow. It was the same motorcycle he was riding, his new Korean War bride hugging his thin waste, the day he first rode onto the gravel of what was then called The Oasis Cafe. He was twenty years old. She was sixteen and spoke no English. They bought the place a year later, in 1953.
Now Walt is in his 70's and mean as a snake and not someone you want to mess with. Every now and then he invites Ben in and makes him something to eat. But just don't make him mad or you will get your arse handed to you :-)
On down the road you have another bunch of characters.
The Lacey brothers, Fergus and Duncan, lived a mile off 117 in two sand-scoured red boxcars that had been welded together and placed on top of a foundation of gray cinder blocks. I didn't know how long the brothers had lived there or where they had come from, or their ages, or what they did, if anything, outside of running a scrawny bunch of cattle and horses. They never offered and I never inquired. How boxcars got out in the middle of the desert when there were no train tracks within seventy-five miles was a bit of a mystery. I mused upon it when it occurred to me, which was probably too often.
Another character that I loved was John.
Ahead in the distance I saw John's ten-foot wooden cross bobbing along the shoulder just as my rig wound around the curve. John's appearance meant spring had officially arrived on 117. He was just coming up on the turnout to Desert Home, so I pulling in front of him. With a cold bottle of water in hand, I waited a few minutes for him to arrive. He kept a strict schedule. If he had time he would stop and rest the cross.
All of these characters have stories of their own, things that happened to them, crusades they are on, hiding from the world or what have you.
One of my favorite characters is Ginny. She is a seventeen-year-old pregnant girl that works the night shift at Wal-Mart and goes to college. Her mom kicked her out when she found out she was pregnant and the mom and step jerk/boyfriend whatever moved. I won't go into how she got pregnant. She is a friend of Ben's because he used to date her mom when Ginny was little. She is a very smart girl and helps Ben in so many ways in the book and he repays her ten-fold, it makes me so happy for her.
Along the route, Ben stopped at Desert Home to use the bathroom and found out there was an abandoned community there that he wasn't aware of. When he went to one of the house's he sees a woman there, in a most funny way, but I digress. This would be Claire, she is in hiding and they fall in love at one point.
I have to say this book is full of such heartache and happiness. It seems like more heartache though. I felt for these people, they felt like old friends, people I would like to know, just some where out there.
I leave you with a few more EXCERPTS
John and his cross appeared in the distance. We were closing on them fast. The bright eastern sun threw a disfigured shadow from the cross back toward us. Josh leaned slightly forward into the windshield, uncertain what he saw, or if he was seeing anything at all. We sped past John and his mobile cross. Josh's head whipped around. "What the hell was that?"
Josh's eyes were fixed on his side mirror. "That!"
"What?" I said. We dropped into a slight hollow and began rising onto another straightaway. I made a big deal of looking into my side mirror. "I don't see anything. What did you see?"
"Okay," Josh said. "If that's the way you want to play it. But when a Jew starts seeing Jesus carrying his cross through the desert, I'm telling you the apocalypse can't be far off."
Mr. and Mrs. Jones had kindly offered me lessons on any instrument I wanted. I'd never mentioned my love of bagpipes to anyone before. A Jewish Native American half-breed orphan playing bagpipes wasn't the sort of impression I ever wanted to make.
"Didn't stick with it. No one in the neighborhood was sorry when I gave it up. Most of the pets took off. Some never came back.
He reached to steady himself on a mirror post. I could see the butt of a handgun beneath his short leather jacket. "You think you're going to need that?" I asked.
Walt gave my question more thought than I expected. "I hope not," he said.
"Don't shoot anyone accidentally," I said.
He jumped down and glared up at me. "I don't shoot people accidentally," he said. "I shoot them on purpose."
*I would like to thank Penguin Random House Publishing and Blogging For Books for a print copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.*
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