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Desperation Road

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  2,323 ratings  ·  486 reviews
For eleven years the clock has been ticking for Russell Gaines as he sits in Parchman penitentiary. His sentence now up, Russell believes his debt has been paid. But when he returns home, he discovers that revenge lives and breathes all around him.

Meanwhile, a woman named Maben and her young daughter trudge along the side of the interstate. Desperate and exhausted, the pai
Hardcover, 289 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Little Brown and Company
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Jessica Pilcher There is drinking that goes on in this book. In fact a lot of drinking goes on. Several scenes happen in a bar, but I never really got the impression …moreThere is drinking that goes on in this book. In fact a lot of drinking goes on. Several scenes happen in a bar, but I never really got the impression that the alcohol was needed in order for the character to function. He did not wake up and first thing have a drink but lets just say the days ended in drinking. For some reason the people in this book like to drink while driving around town! Drugs are mentioned when explaining the past, but they do not have a big part in the book. Hope this helps a little!(less)

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Average rating 4.07  · 
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Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Michael Farris Smith has written an effortlessly erudite, complex and lucid novel of consequence set in the ravaged town of McComb, Mississippi. It tells of the travails of lives brimful of pain unravelling under the relentless and searing southern heat. It displays a bone deep understanding of Southern traditions and people, and in the narrative I could hear the timeless musical laments of jazz and blues singers such as Robert Johnson, Leadbelly and Bessie Smith. It is the story of Russell, rel ...more
I picked up 'Desperation Road' after I kept seeing it pop up on my feed with several 5-star ratings. I didn't read any of the reviews before I went into this book, which was probably a good thing because I was able to experience everything fresh, without any idea of what was going to transpire. It ended up being quite a big surprise for me, but not in the way that you'd probably expect.

You see, McComb, Mississippi is my hometown...and it is the setting of this story. My family has a very long hi
Having been an avid reader for my entire life, I can pretty much tell early on—sometimes even within the first few chapters—when a book is going to be something special. For me, Desperation Road turned out to be one of those sometimes. It was Michael Farris Smith’s distinct style—his lack of frilly overtures and sometimes sparse dialogue, all delivered in a compelling way—that struck a chord with me. There was a beauty to the simplicity of his writing, this cast of broken people, his ability to ...more
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
You are never stronger...than when you land on the other side of despair.”
― Zadie Smith, White Teeth.

Russell Gaines is back home after spending 11 years in Parchman Penitentiary, and he believes he's paid his debt to society - he just wants to get on with his life. Others don't agree with him. Revenge has a long memory, and for those who live with it, it's an all consuming beast that has to be acknowledged. The small Southern town of McComb, Mississippi, with its explosive mix of bourbon, guns
Larry H
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Yes, yes, YES! This book was amazing!!

Does everyone deserve a second chance? Can we ever free ourselves from the yoke of the wrongs we've done, or are we destined to pay for them forever? Is hope something all should feel entitled to, or should we just accept that hope is a luxury not everyone can afford? These are just a few of the questions Michael Farris Smith addresses in his bleak, brilliant new novel, Desperation Road .

Russell Gaines has just gotten out of prison after 11 years. He has
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
5+++ stars..
What a fantastic book! What a great author!
In one review that I read, it said "you feel like your living it instead of reading it" true!
Oh, Russell.. what a great character, I worried about you through this entire book!!
I want to read all this author's works now, if there are any!
Best book I have read this year! An absolute must read!

Beautifully written, you can’t help but be drawn in by the vivid detail given to each character.
Russell is an ex-con, just released from a Mississippi penitentiary after 11 long years. Maben and her daughter Annalee are running from nowhere on their way to anywhere better than the past they left behind.

Multiple tragic events that initially appear to be independent of one another, all heading for the inevitable collision-course. No one is com
Diane S ☔
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Retribution, revenge, mistakes that lead to life changing results, all qualities that populate many books of southern fiction. But in this author hands it is so much more. Flawed characters, realistic characters, but all treated with dignity and grace despite their bad decisions, decisions that linger, causing hurt and anger. How to get past these and start again? A wonderful and tightly plotted book, the pace is so even the writing extremely smooth. Suspenseful but at the same time heartbreakin ...more
OK......I have a new favorite author..........Michael Farris Smith.

Get ready for a blast-off beginning when you meet Maben and little Annabel struggling with heat and hunger as they walk the highway back to Mississippi, as they meet up with danger and as they live with disappointment after disappointment.

In DESPERATION ROAD, Bourbon, Coke and Guns are the norm and ex-con Russell Gaines takes no exception to the rule. After eleven long tortuous years in prison, Russell receives a shocking welcome

Nov 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, 2016, arc, fiction

“Trouble been doggin' my soul since the day I was born”
- Ray LeMontagne

With the perfect ebb and flow of tension throughout this perfectly paced novel, Michael Farris Smith has drawn an incredible cast of characters who come together to create the perfect storm – a disturbance of the atmosphere between these characters and these pages.

McComb, Mississippi is the setting for this story, which opens with the return of one of McComb’s native sons returning home. McComb is
Nov 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I received a copy of Desperation Road through NetGalley. My thanks to Little Brown and Company and to Michael Farris Smith for the opportunity.

"How can you imagine the complexities of what might come?"

Russell Gaines knows only too well of the deep, festering, jaggedness that calls itself life. It enters at dawn and snakes its way in and out until the moon finally snuffs it out in one ragged breath.

Russell has spent the last eleven years in the Mississippi State Penitentiary for silencing the lif
LeAnne: GeezerMom
Jun 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
Hot damn. He did it again - and it is fantastic.
UPDATE...June, 2018...Looks like movie rights have been picked up.
Original review: These characters are shades of people you and I know - those who have made awful mistakes in their past but are trying now to pull themselves out of the sucking mud of failure. As in Michael Farris Smith's outstanding debut Rivers set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the moist, jungly atmosphere of the deep south again wraps around the reader like vines of kud
Elyse  Walters
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I won't even mention the characters or the story itself!!!


"Lions, and Tigers, and Bears......OH MY".....
You won't meet any wild animals. Nor will you need any help finding your way back home following the Yellow Brick Road....
"Desperation Road" takes place in a small town: McComb, (Pike County), in the state of Mississippi. McComb is about 80 miles south of Jackson and was founded in 1872 after Henry Simpson McComb of the N
James Thane
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
When Russell Gaines returns home to McComb, Mississippi after an eleven-year stretch in Parchman Penitentiary, he believes that he's paid his debt to society. Unfortunately for Russell, not everyone else agrees, and even before he can step off the bus, he sees two brothers waiting for him. The two attack him viciously before being interrupted by a citizen who threatens to call the police. The brothers leave Russell injured on the ground, promising that this won't be the last he'll see of them.

Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
In the southern Mississippi swamp you can watch the world awaken as the pale yellow sun edges itself between the trees and moss and wide winged cranes. Dragonflies buzz and raccoons come out of their dens and crawl along fallen trees. Turtles situate themselves onto stumps that will later become sun-soaked and hidden things slide beneath black water with murderous patience and skill.

That passage sets the tone of this book. I know one a few of my friends (Dan 2.0) would totally read this book wro
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grit-lit
I was so desperate to read this when I read the numerous 4 and 5* reviews, I almost broke out into a cold sweat.
Russell Gaines has just been released from jail after serving 11 years. We aren't told of his crime in the early stages of the story, but rather the 24 hours that follow his release. From being beaten as soon as he walked off the bus, to getting drunk and getting laid and redoing it a few times over for a few days until a woman enters into his life with her child. She is on her own pli
Susanne  Strong
5 Stars.

Michael Farris Smith’s “Desperation Road” is a powerful yet desolate tale of a hard-fought life and the consequences of it.

At the onset of this novel, Russell and Maben are strangers on a collision course. Their characters are flawed, yet human. You want to know every ounce of their pain even though reading each word reverberates throughout your soul.

Russell Gaines is now a free man living in McComb, Mississippi. He was incarcerated for 11 years. Though technically he paid for his crim
Mary Beth
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved it! Wow it is so good!

Two hard-luck cases collide in this smooth-flowing novel of the Deep South, where a Mississippi town harbors a long-brewing hunger for vengeance and a slim chance of redemption.

Maben and Russell are heading to McComb from different directions, geographically and otherwise. She has been on the road for too many years after a terrible car accident and has tried almost everything to make a life somewhere for herself and her young daughter. Russell has been serving 11 yea
Andrew Smith
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I love brooding tales set in the steamy Deep South. Stories of troubled people whose destiny seems set from page one: there will be trouble, it’s just a case of where and when. This is such a tale. Russell has just been released from Parchman Penitentiary where he’s served eleven years for vehicular homicide. He’d been enjoying a late night drive around the back roads, close to his home town in McComb, Mississippi. He’d had a drink too. And when his vehicle crashed into a parked truck a boy was ...more
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
Dark, gritty, and utterly beautiful.

There are many things I loved about Desperation Road, but what stands out to me the most is Farris Smith’s ability to bring McComb, Mississippi to life. His vivid description of McComb, coupled with the social dynamics that encompass the town, capture the essence of the South with a raw, unfaltering honesty.

When Russell Gaines, freed from prison after serving 11 years, returns home to McComb, he is struggling to merge his past with the present, having to adjus
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Arah-Lynda by: Zoeytron
Shelves: i-said, lod, top, lets-get-real
Despair:  the complete loss or absence of hope.

In the Southern Mississippi swamp you can watch the world awaken as the pale yellow sun edges itself between the trees and moss and widewinged cranes.  Dragonflies buzz and racoons come out of their dens and crawl along fallen trees.  Turtles situate themselves onto stumps that will later become sunsoaked and hidden things slide beneath black water with murderous patience and skill.  Limbs too old to hold themselves up any longer bend and break
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-lit-wd
Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith is a gritty, character driven thriller set in the stultifying heat of Mississippi.
The novel evokes an America of lonely roads, dusty towns and of disillusioned, hard drinking characters - those living on the wrong side of the breadline and often, the wrong side of the law.
Against this difficult backdrop are also those, trying against the odds to build a decent future.
Russell, fresh out of prison and Maben on the run with no money and a young daughter, ar
My second book of this author and a d*mn good one. This author does not write 'pretty stories' (Rivers, the first book I read of this author, is a rather grim story), and this story, well, the title says it, Desperation Road. Especially the beginning chapters of mother Maben and her little daughter on the road walking with only the clothes on their back and a sack of belongings, ending up in a grim situation, is shocking and a heartbreaker. A dark story in the Southern, hot part of US, but also ...more
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: southern
Good story... true to the time, the place and the people.
Cathrine ☯️
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
7/11/18 Exciting news. The film option deal on DR is now official and MFS will be part of the script adaptation. If you haven't read this one I highly recommend you get to it! I read for books like this.

5★ with 5 ❣❣❣❣❣ exclamatory bonus points
Boyd is sitting in his cruiser “trying hard to understand a God that would allow the weakness of innocence and the strength of evil.”

Have you raced through a book with your heart in your throat because you can’t wait for the end—only to arrive at those fina
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ew
A high 4 stars! This is a dark tangled story about flawed people in nasty circumstances showing strength, bad judgment, resilience, more bad judgment, and small and not so small acts of kindness. I can’t say much about the plot, because it comes together in a way that you should experience as it unfolds. At most, I will say that it takes place in Mississippi – so it fits into what I think of southern noir literature -- that it features homeless single mother Maben on the run with her five year o ...more
Copy furnished by Net Galley for the price of a review.

A man is released from prison after serving eleven years for manslaughter. A young mother with her small daughter in tow wearily makes her way toward a women's shelter after a terrible ordeal. Two men filled with rage and blood in their eyes seek retribution for the death of their brother. These lives and others are destined to collide in a small town in the Mississippi Delta.

What this author can do with his character creation is pure gold.
The story was full of twists and flawed individuals but it was also very organic. Effortless!! I especially liked how forthcoming the main characters were with each other.

Ready, set, camera, action! And I mean it! The whole time I was reading this book, I felt like I was looking through the lens of a camera, scoping out the place. Slowly panning from one end of the scene to the other, panorama style. It was a fantastic feeling and a fantastic visual.

It’s like a magic trick, really it is. The author loads my eyeballs with images at the exact same time that he’s loading my brain with words that tell a story, and ta da, suddenly I’m watching an exciting movie! I
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2017
Utterly fantastic and beautiful read!!
I'm not even sure how to write this review because I really can't put into words or describe what a spiritual and beautiful novel this really is.

Michael Farris is a very very talented writer. Right off the bat, you are taken into the life of our character Maben and her daughter Annalee... walking on the side of the road in the heat starving and homeless. Maben manages to scrounge her last few dollars staying at motel with her daughter and man her night ends
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Michael Farris Smith is the author of Blackwood (2020), The Fighter, Desperation Road, Rivers, and The Hands of Strangers. His novels have appeared on Best of the Year lists with Esquire, Southern Living, Book Riot, and numerous others, and have been named Indie Next, Barnes & Noble Discover, and Amazon Best of the Month selections. His essays have appeared with The New York Times, Bitter Southern ...more

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“He could never get used to sitting next to men who sang the hymns of love and forgiveness knowing what they'd done and knowing they were getting their redemption. Taking advantage of grace while those they had done it to were probably up at night walking back and forth across worn carpet or fumbling in the medicine cabinet searching for the pills to help them sleep. He didn't like the part of the service when these same men left their seats and stood at the pulpit and gave testimony. It was the same story over and over. Yes, I raped. Yes, I took another life. Yes, I stole. Yes, I raised a fist to my fellow man. But now I have found the love of God. Now I can see the light. Now I am found and on and on to a smattering of amens and hallelujahs and praise the Lords until Russell couldn't take it anymore and so he gave up. He didn't believe it worked that way and if it did then something didn't seem right.” 0 likes
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