It’s 1967. Fifteen-year-old Hank Goodman, his parents killed in an automobile accident, comes to live with his grandparents in Crosscut, Louisiana, not terribly far from Leesville. It’s a small town, he’s from Detroit, and Hank is not impressed. At first. But he meets a girl named Becky Rayburn, he begins to grow fond of his grandparents, and soon finds himself settling in.
But Hank is the grandson of a Taylor, and the Rayburns don’t talk with the Taylors because of a long-ago tragedy. Becky clearly likes him but tells him she can’t see him. Then an aunt and uncle arrive, and with nothing to keep him in Crosscut, Hank goes with them to live in Denver.
A few years and two tours of duty in Vietnam later, Hank returns to Crosscut. His grandfather has died; Becky was married and had a child but is now a widow. One thing that hasn’t changed was Carl Walker, the son of the man who controls the parish (county). Carl gets into often serious trouble as fast as his dad pulls strings and gets him out of it. And now Carl wants Becky. Hank, however, is standing in his way – and that means trouble.
Hurt Road by Bruce Stewart is the story of Hank Goodman, struggling to get past the death of his best friend in Vietnam, rediscovering his love for a girl whose family wanted no part of him, and trying to find how to create a life. It’s a heartwarming, engaging story about small-town life with its goodness, badness, and everything in between. (It’s especially engaging for some like me whose father came from a similar small town in Louisiana.)
Stewart grew up in Louisiana, and for 28 years he served as a Louisiana State Police trooper, retiring in 2009. He was also deployed to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He is also the author of the novel Sing Me Something Happy (2017).
The tension between Carl and Hank slowly builds and then begins to ratchet upward, making for a tense conclusion. Hurt Road combines suspense, romance, and an appreciation or small-town life into a successful story.
Top photograph: The Vernon Parish, Louisiana, courthouse. Vernon Parish is similar to the fictional Lee Parish inHurt Road.