Grist Mill Road (Yates)

Grist Mill Road 
Christopher J. Yates, 2018
352 pp.

26 years ago Hannah had her eye shot out. Now she wants justice. But is she blind to the truth?

Christopher J. Yates’s cult hit Black Chalk introduced that rare writerly talent: a literary writer who could write a plot with the intricacy of a brilliant mental puzzle, and with characters so absorbing that readers are immediately gripped.

Yates’s new book does not disappoint.

Grist Mill Road is a dark, twisted, and expertly plotted Rashomon-style tale.

The year is 1982; the setting, an Edenic hamlet some ninety miles north of New York City. There, among the craggy rock cliffs and glacial ponds of timeworn mountains, three friends—Patrick, Matthew, and Hannah—are bound together by a terrible and seemingly senseless crime.

Twenty-six years later, in New York City, living lives their younger selves never could have predicted, the three meet again—with even more devastating results. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Raised—Kent, England, UK
Education—J.D., Oxford University
Currently—lives in New York, New York, USA

Christopher J. Yates was born and raised in Kent, England, and studied law at Oxford University before working as a puzzle editor in London. He now lives in New York City with his wife and dog. His first book, Black Chalk, was an NPR "Best of the Year" selection. (From the publisher.)

Read article on the author in Literary Hub.

Book Reviews
[A] whydunnit that delves deep into the secrets linking the main characters.… Yates's previous book, Black Chalk, had a delicious premise: an escalating game of dare over the years among friends who meet at Oxford.… [Grist Mill Road] is more sophisticated, starting from the fully realized stories the characters are awarded in the service of an elegant narrative…You have to work hard to follow the winding road Yates sends us down, and the drive is full of pleasantly unpleasant surprises.
Sarah Lyall - New York Times

(Starred review.) [A]n edgy, intelligent thriller…. The reader’s sympathies shift as each character brings a different perspective to the events that shaped them. Unexpected twists keep the tension high.
Publishers Weekly

[A] fun-house mirror of a single, horrific incident that defines three lives.… This fast-paced, suspenseful journey through the minds of these characters will fascinate … readers who enjoy twisty, intellectual thrillers and unreliable narration. —Charli Osborne, Oak Park P. L., MI
Library Journal

The intensity of the storytelling is exhilarating and unsettling. — Don Crinklaw

(Starred review.) Yates…drives home the messages that…true, compassionate love is always redemptive.… Mesmerizing and impossible to put down, this novel demands full attention…; in return it offers poignant insight into human fragility and resilience.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. At the beginning of the novel, Patch poses the following questions: "What does it mean to watch? When a crime takes place in front of you, what is watching? Is it a failure to act or is it simply keeping your eyes open?” How would you answer these questions? In what ways does the conclusion of the novel influence your answers?

2. The narration of the novel toggles between first person and third person, allowing Hannah, Patch, and Matthew to speak, as well as an omniscient narrator. Why do you think the author may have chosen to alternate vantage points in this way? How does this style of narration affect your interpretation of the novel?

3. In many ways, the town of Roseborn and its surrounding landscape comes alive as a character in and of itself. How would you describe the nature of this place? In what ways do you see this town’s particularities impact Patch, Hannah, and Matthew in their adult lives?

4. Stalking pervades the novel, from Patch’s following of Trevino and Matthew’s shadowing of Patch to a particularly grisly crime that Hannah covers. But it also transcends such physical action; past memories and traumas stalk the present-day lives of the characters in dreams, journal entries, fantasies, and everyday thoughts. Why do you think there’s such a thematic preoccupation with stalking in the novel?

5. We find out about the secret in Patch and Hannah’s marriage, that Hannah doesn’t know Patch was there when Matthew shot her, about midway through the novel. Hannah, in fact, tells Jen that, "He actually saved me.” To what extent do you agree or disagree with Hannah that Patch saved her? Do you think Patch was culpable in the crime perpetrated against Hannah? In what ways might he have played both roles?

6. At the beginning of Matthew’s section, he writes, "Truth is seldom a lens, truth is a kaleidoscope.” How do you interpret this statement? How do you see this idea play out thematically across the novel?

7. We don’t hear directly from Matthew until over halfway through the novel. In what ways does getting the story from his perspective shift your view of his character?

8. Patch fails to tell Hannah that he was present for part of Matthew’s shooting spree. Do you think that means their marriage was based on a lie? Why or why not?

9. Hannah, Patch, and Matthew all have complex relationships with their fathers. Discuss the ways in which their fathers shape each of these characters.

10. Why do you think Matthew is so resistant to labels? In what ways do labels complicate his life?
(Questions written by Laura Chasen and issued by the publisher.)

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