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The Road Renounced

Packing up her father’s effects ahead of his funeral, Sam Ryan’s daughter discovers her grandmother’s diary. Her reading takes us on a twisting journey through history – WWI, the Spanish flu, prohibition, and the depression. Moving back and forth between the present and the past, from the USA to Belgium, Kaye Schmitz’s The Road Renounced straddles time and space. Finally, the worlds converge when her grandfather, an aspiring baseball player, goes to war and, once more, briefly, at her father’s funeral. By then, we know a whole lot about her grandparents’ life that the narrator wisely chooses not to tell the rest of the family.          

One would expect a book that presents graphic scenes of war, alcoholism, spousal abuse, and suicide to be depressing. Not this one. The Road Renounced is a pleasure to read from start to finish. The opening “Letter to My Readers” pulls readers in immediately because Kaye Schmitz talks to them like an old friend, just like Maude writes in her diary. “Who would have thought a diary from a hundred years ago would have kept you glued like this?” (305) The narrator’s curiosity and compassion compel readers to read on. They might even do just as she did, for example, searching on Google for a song her father sang. 

Weaving family history, homage, and meticulous research, Schmitz creates engaging scenes with a Forrest Gump effect – recognizable historical moments revisited with a fictional character present. Need to know where historical fact ends and fiction begins? Check out the detailed “Author’s note” at the novel’s end. The structure is masterful. Logical devices bridge the spatial gap till our Americans arrive in Europe. And then there is the trunk to link the past and present. There are concerns about women’s rights, war and patriotism, parental responsibilities, self-esteem, and mental health. Readers will be left with much to consider as they follow along on this journey with the protagonist.

The Road Renounced is a gripping drama and family saga that takes historical events and gives them a personal touch. Readers will find themselves drawn into the lives of this family as they learn about their past, good and bad, and are compelled to see the story through and learn who these people really are.

Pages: 440 | ASIN : B0BLVVVJYJ

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