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Reservation Road (Vintage Contemporaries)

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  2,159 Ratings  ·  316 Reviews
A cycle of violence and retribution is set in motion as two haunted men are engulfed by the emotions surrounding an unexpected and horrendous death.Ethan, a respected professor at a small New England college, is wracked by an obsession for revenge that threatens to tear his family apart. Dwight, fleeing his crime yet hoping to get caught, wrestles with overwhelming guilt a ...more
Kindle Edition, 305 pages
Published (first published August 18th 1998)
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Aug 17, 2008 Fabian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bleak Drama Fans
It's a story we've heard before--the loss of a child and its subsequent devastating effect on the parents. This is that story, trimmed and nicely-paced, & the conclusion, perhaps its one original point, is memorable indeed.

This is no Andre Dubus III however, and it shows. The poignancy it reaches for never arrives, perhaps because the story has been recycled to varying degrees and to polarizing results. It is a bit in the formulaic side, but no, it will not completely disappoint.

The best thi
Oct 06, 2011 Debby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to say you "really liked" a book about the death of a 10-yr-old boy from a hit and run. The book is narrated from 3 perspectives on the events of that night - Josh's father Ethan, Josh's mother Grace and Dwight the guy who hit Josh and kept on driving. Why? What will happen to each of them as time passes without a clue? How far will Ethan get when he decides to do some investigating of his own?
This is not an easy read, but a very good one. The ending left me speechless.
This would be
Dec 30, 2007 Melissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who have lost a loved one
I read some of the reviews of this book and was a little surprised by a few. I think this content is for people who have actually expereinced loss. I don't mean a grandparent who has lived out their days, but someone in their immediate family. Otherwise I think it would be hard to understand the characters reactions. If you have watched and experienced what death does to a family you can relate to this novel.

I am about half way through and I can not put it down. This is an excellent novel so far
Will Byrnes
Oct 10, 2011 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Parallels abound. Ethan is the bereft father, Josh, his lost son. Dwight is the damaged driver, Sam his child, damaged by dad in a different way. How each copes with the aftermath is the core of the tale here. Dwight runs over a young boy, then flees the scene, fearful of the impact the accident might have on his already tentative custody of his son. The wives are also portrayed, measured one against the other. The overall effect is of extreme sadness. It is a remarkably fast-reading book. I fel ...more
Webster Library
I picked this book because I thought it was something completely different. I thought it was the book they made the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio about, Revolutionary Road. It was a silly mistake and after a little bit of confusion I continued on. There was a major problem with the book, dealing with the timing of the novel. Schwartz tells this story in the voices of three characters: Ethan, Dwight and Grace. They each tell their side of a story, their emotional baggage after a horrible accident. ...more
Jan 13, 2010 K rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K by: Mintzis
At the beginning of this book, ten-year-old Josh is killed in a hit-and-run accident. The subsequent events are narrated by three characters -- Josh's two parents (Ethan and Grace) and the hit-and-run driver, Dwight.

Grace sinks into a deep depression that distances her from her husband and surviving daughter; Ethan copes with his loss by nurturing a thirst for revenge on the anonymous driver and being belligerent to the police officers who simply aren't doing enough to find this driver. Dwight,
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I did a quick re-read of this book in anticipation of the sequel, Northwest Corner. My memory of my overall impressions of the story holds up in the second reading. Some great strengths and a couple of weaker aspects that do diminish the power of the book as a whole. If I focus on the things Schwartz got right, it's a four-star book. If I focus on the things he did wrong, it's three stars. I'm going with the higher rating because I do think the book is worth reading, especially if you're interes ...more
May 21, 2015 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Driving his son Sam home to the son's mother too fast, divorced lawyer Dwight Arno runs down 10-year-old Josh, son of Literature professor Ethan Learner and Ethan's landscaper wife Grace. Dwight keeps going, pretending to Sam that it was a dog he hit in the gloom. We follow the consequences over the next few months, either through Dwight's eyes or Ethan's (both in first person) or through Grace's (in third person). It soon becomes clear to us and to Dwight that the two families are far more clos ...more
Feb 13, 2012 Staci rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-reads
Why I wanted to read this one: Last year I read Northwest Corner by Schwartz, which is the sequel to Reservation Road, for a TLC Book Tour. I fell in love with this author's writing and the story hit me hard on many levels. I knew that at some point I had to read about the devastating event that caused these two families lives to spin out-of-control.

Source: My public library

I can only speak of my experience and tell you that I absolutely love this author's voice. There's something so simple, yet
Mar 03, 2010 M rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While this was readable enough, what I found it to be most primarily was a novel that tried to be two things - murder mystery and thoughtful, poignant story - and ended up being neither.
In a most depressing premise, a father driving with his ten year old son hits another man's ten year old son, then is scared and zooms off. At this point, as anyone could predict, the dead son's mother loses it, their marriage suffers, all predictably packaged in short snippets that were like movie scenes trying
Robin Glasser
Feb 07, 2013 Robin Glasser rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Reservation Road by John Burnham Schwartz for my book club. There are so many 'road' movies: Revolutionary Road, The Road to Perdition, etc. and as I got further into the book, I realized I'd seen the film, which was good, btw...Mark Ruffalo played the tortured lawyer (oxymoron?). The Learner family, Ethan and Grace and their children, Emma and Josh, stop at a gas station on their way home. Their son is standing by the road when a car comes racing along the bend. Josh is hit and killed in ...more
Reindert Van Zwaal
Jul 18, 2015 Reindert Van Zwaal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Simply stunning. I got completely drowned into the story and almost read the book in one go. There is a sort of unspoken tension through the whole book, the emotion can be felt all the time. A sad story but very well written!
Louise Behrendt
Jan 24, 2016 Louise Behrendt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A difficult story about an accidental death , and how it affects the victim's family, as well as the coward who caused the accident and fled the scene.
Jun 07, 2013 Dana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes being an attorney takes the fun out of books for me. Reservation Road by John Burnham Schwartz is a prime example. I could not figure out why Dwight didn't stop at the accident scene. It was dark. The road was not well-lighted and Josh was in the road wearing dark, non-reflective clothing. Dwight would not have been charged with anything (other than a ticket for the burned out headlight). Further his ex-wife could not have said anything about him being late bringing Sam home since they ...more
Oct 06, 2011 Jodie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, 2011
I find it hard to put into words how I feel about this book. It is without a doubt one of the most moving portrayals of grief and love that I have ever read.

Imagine seeing your precious, irreplacable young son mowed down in front of you. Now imagine being the driver that did it. In our wildest musings we could not even come close to the guilt and sorrow this would throw down on our lives and everyone we meet from that second forward. This novel, written in the narratives of Ethan and Grace, who
If ever there were two people in the world who needed either counseling or a good chest-beating, accusation-laden, finger-wagging, knock-down, curse-ridden fight, it's Ethan and Grace. I get that what they went through was the worst thing you can experience as a parent, but they were so content to let that consume them, and that made this story hard to read.

Beyond that, Dwight is just an ass. There is no black or white here. He's self-absorbed, angry, obnoxious and violent, and he's in the wrong
Nov 12, 2012 Lucy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012, for-review
Reservation Road was less of a thriller than I had really expected from the synopsis. There was a certain element of one man trying to find his son's killer, and another man trying to hide, but that was only a very minor element of the story when it came down to it. In fact the synopsis made me want to read the book less than I would have if it was presented in the way I read it.
This was a story of loss, and of love. Initially the loss of Josh and how it effects his family- particularly his pare
Kathleen Hagen
Reservation Road, by John Burnham Schwartz, Various narrators, one for each of the three protagonists, Produced by Books on Tape, Downloaded from

Ethan and Grace were coming home from vacation with their two children, Josh and Emma. They stopped at a deserted gas station because Emma had to go to the bathroom. Despite his father’s warning, Josh stood too close to the road and was hit by a passing car with only one headlight. He was killed. The driver did not stop. The rest of the boo
Aug 20, 2011 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Holy crap this book was good: haunting, tragic, and gorgeously written. This was written about a dozen years ago and I only heard about it recently because the author has a follow up out (Northwest Corner: dying to read it). I can’t believe I never ran into Reservation Road before. It was a bestseller and a movie and so amazing it’s hard to fathom this is the first I’ve heard of it. It focuses on a tragedy (hit and run) and is told through multiple viewpoints. Sometimes shifting narration works ...more
*2.5 STARS*
- The writing in this book is good; it's solid - no doubt about that.
- But I was very disappointed in the storyline. The front cover touts it as some kind of literary "thriller" but there was NO thriller aspect about this book at all!
- It's just a very simple story, written well stylistically, but unfortunately very dull. NOTHING HAPPENS.
- In fact, this entire book could have been condensed and shortened into a very good short story or novella (which would've had much more impact, in
Oct 11, 2007 Jenna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: well-adjusted people looking for a change of pace
Reservation Road was intense. Short (and I mean really short) chapters marinated in depression, despair, and not much plot. I've never been a huge fan of merry-go-round narration like this, and I think getting just a short snapshot of each of the three character's awful day just made it worse.

This is the kind of book that can convince you that a terrible thing can, and probably will, happen to you. Maybe tomorrow.

Sometimes reading is supposed to elicit these feelings in you, make you take stoc
Aaron Martz
Feb 12, 2013 Aaron Martz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one depressing book. Each page is filled with grief, memories, stark truths. The characters are completely believable, the situations wrenching and unbearable. You almost want to turn your back on the book, it's subject is so horrifying. It took me a long time to read it, and I will not soon forget it. It is a powerful dramatization of events I hope I never have to go through. When most people think of thrillers, they think of armed robbery, of guns and bloodshed. There is a crime in Res ...more
Aug 02, 2014 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever read a book that held promise and captured your attention but then let you down? A book that left you saying...this book COULD have been so good? Reservation Road was that book for me. A fatal hit and run accident leaves two families reeling. Ethan is the father of the little boy that was killed. Ethan blames himself for being unable to protect his son and keep him from harm. Dwight is the driver of the car that killed Ethan. Dwight struggles with his guilt and his feelings of fail ...more
Mar 28, 2012 Els rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, novels
Ethan en Grace Learner verliezen hun zoon Josh door een noodlottig ongeval. Hun leven en dat van hun dochtertje Emma wordt vanaf dat moment beheerst door verdriet, woede en schuldgevoel. Dwight Arno, de man die de dood van Josh op zijn geweten heeft en zelf ook vader van een zoontje, is niet bij machte de schuld op zich te nemen. Ook zijn leven is verwoest, al zal het lang duren voordat hij dat onder ogen durft te zien. Indrukwekkend hoe John Burnham Schwartz de gevoelens van deze mensen in beel ...more
Jun 06, 2013 Mandi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
This novel was unique in that it told the story from the viewpoints of both the victim's family and the perpetrator. It was engrossing and moving. The grief felt by both parties was so real that it was nearly palpable. I sometimes find that male authors tend to gloss over emotions,even in the toughest of circumstances. That was not the case for this novel- John Burnham Schwartz very effectively makes the reader ache to reach into the novel and comfort the deeply grieving characters. My only comp ...more
Jennifer  Sciolino-Moore
Mar 01, 2016 Jennifer Sciolino-Moore rated it really liked it
I almost put this down after the first chapters. Very tough subject matter if you're a parent--shit, even if you're not a parent, but more so if the pain of what happens is possible for you to imagine.

I'm glad I stuck with it, but only barely. I've got more than a small streak of schadenfreude so you might think it odd that my one criticism is that the characters never really hit bottom. There wasn't a depth of suffering. I remember reading about an upswing in outlook and effort after a bit of
Shelley Shoemaker
I recently discovered Schwartz through his 2nd book, Northwest Corner. I love his style of writing, somehow both poetic and practical at the same time. I went back and found the first book, which is actually the beginning of the story, and enjoyed it almost as much. I love the brief chapters from the perspectives of the different characters. It rounds out the story and helps the reader to be empathetic towards what might normally be the most misunderstood, even detested characters.

Although I ha
Aug 14, 2011 Tajma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one fine novel by a writer who possesses great skill. As much as I wanted to hate Dwight, I was nearly always able to empathize with him. The best writers make us see in ourselves the things we wish were not there. It is so easy to take the high road and say, "I'd never do such a thing". But one never knows. I wanted to give the novel five stars. However, at times Dwight seems nearly sociopathic and is close to falling into the category of unreliable narrator. At the novel's end he is m ...more
Jul 30, 2015 Georgia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though I found this to be a flawed book (the way some of the plot traveled felt lazy to me, it irked me that one character's chapter would be written in first person and then the next would be in third, and I was disappointed that certain characters weren't explored into further - there was so much opportunity to develop this story further than it was taken), this book completely hooked me. After reading a few books that hadn't matched my expectations, this one was exactly what I needed to boost ...more
Jul 01, 2013 Mario rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery, suspense
Not a badly written book (though possibly overwritten), but it's unrelentingly bleak. The children, I think, are poorly drawn -- in that particular unrealistic way that parents are apt to see children. It's hard to blame the adults for being moody and annoying, given the tragedy that has affected them, so I won't point that out.

You should read this if you are desperate to feel heaping quantities of vicarious angst, and avoid it otherwise.
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Major Motion Picture 2 13 Feb 05, 2008 05:42PM  
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John Burnham Schwartz grew up in New York City. At Harvard College, he majored in Japanese studies, and upon graduation accepted a position with a prominent Wall Street investment bank, before finally turning the position down after selling his first novel. Schwartz has taught fiction writing at Harvard, The University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, and Sarah Lawrence College, and he is the literary d ...more
More about John Burnham Schwartz...

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“There are heroes, and there are the rest of us. There comes a time when you just let go the ghost of the better person you might have been.” 5 likes
“Why? What had she ever done? What had any of them ever done? To give a child only to take him away. To make and then unmake, as if a family weren't built of lives but of things that could be broken, returned, thrown out--” 1 likes
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