Mountain Road, Late at Night by Alan Rossi

‘Everyone was always thinking they knew the right way to live.’

Nicholas and April live in a remote cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains with their four-year-old son Jack. They’ve established their own lives, separate and different from their families.  And then, one night, tragedy strikes.  Nicholas and April are driving home from a party and die in a car crash. 

Who will raise Jack?

‘What was real became unreal and what was unreal became real.’

Nicholas’s brother and sister in law, Nathaniel and Stefanie are willing, but are not sure that they are ready for the responsibility.  Nicholas and Nathaniel’s parents, Katherine and David might have the financial resources, but their relationship is failing.  April’s mother, Tammy, wants a chance to be a better parent, to make up for the mistakes she made as a single mother.

For the first three parts of the novel, we are in the minds of Nathaniel, Katherine and Tammy.  Nathaniel and Stefanie are with Jack, Tammy is driving to Blue Ridge, and Katherine (who has taken a vow of silence) spends much of her time wallowing in guilt.

Nicholas and April have not left any instructions about Jack’s guardianship.

‘You understand that this is going to be a fight of some kind…’

I read the first three parts of this novel, trying to work out which of these relatives would be best placed to care for Jack. Decisions need to be made, but what about Jack?  And why is it that so many of us, unwilling to consider our own mortality, have not made care arrangements for our children? 

But it was the final part of this novel that moved me most.  For these are Nicholas’s final hours, trapped in the car after the crash. Life is replayed, the consequences considered.  But what about Jack?

This is a powerful novel and uncomfortable novel. Life can change (and end) in an instance.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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