Book Reviews of Back Roads

Back Roads
Back Roads
Author: Tawni O'Dell
ISBN-13: 9780451202345
ISBN-10: 0451202341
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 405
Rating:
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 207

3.6 stars, based on 207 ratings
Publisher: Signet Book
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

76 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Back Roads on + 162 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Okay, because I live in roughly the Western Pennsylvania where this is set, maybe I'm a bit biased. But O'Dell can write and create characters that while flawed aren't the least bit pathetic. The atmosphere she created, particularly with Harley in the woman's house, lingers with me still.
reviewed Back Roads on + 534 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Oprah Book Club® Selection, March 2000: Not since S.E. Hinton (The Outsiders) has a female novelist penned such a tough and titillating portrait of lower-class, crime-ridden manhood. Set in "beautiful, ruined" western Pennsylvania, amid Eat n' Parks and Lick n' Putts, Tawni O'Dell's Back Roads follows Harley Altmyer as he walks a raging, self-conscious line between crime and innocence. Why is he being held by the authorities, and what's he so mad about? In the recent past, it's his mother, who murdered his father and went to jail for life. In the far past, it's Dad himself: an abusive, hopeless man. In the present, it's the responsibility for his three younger sisters, which makes him fantasize about smashing their faces in until they "spit up bloody macaroni and cheese."
But Harley still has a conscience--barely. He doesn't strike his sisters; he's been trying to protect them. The oldest is sassy Amber, 16, who's having sex on the living-room couch with townies who abuse her; next is frighteningly stoic 12-year-old Misty, with eyes "a glazed brown like a medicine bottle"; the youngest is adorable Jody, who at 6 pens to-do lists with items such as "PRAY FOR DADDYS SOWL." Overburdened with the practicalities of life, and the ever-mounting losses, Harley has started seeing his own words floating in the air in front of his face. "CLOSURE. TRUTH. MOST GUYS."

This first novel opens well. O'Dell does an impeccable job of making Harley both brutal and forgivable. Here, for instance, he retreats to his basement room: "I lay there until dawn, thinking about Dad, and feeling the same useless frustration I had felt the first time I had seen him piss on a sparkling white drift of pure new snow."

But that delicacy is soon lost, and Back Roads risks becoming an overabundant affair, pitched high, with a roller-coaster trajectory. Harley's anger metamorphoses into an almost bloodthirsty lust for his sexy, middle-aged neighbor, which stirs up myriad forbidden family secrets. Misty, it turns out, has been hiding something. Amber revolts. And even Jody's scribbles turn malevolent. While the writing is good throughout, the tension and plotting assume an unpleasant adolescent posture--bodice-ripping passion and mordant gloom combined. Nonetheless, O'Dell's assured and touching portrait of her protagonist emerges unscathed. You will likely remember luckless, fated Harley Altmyer long after his tsunamic tale has receded. And no matter what the judge decides, you will understand why this impoverished, angry young man was probably the most innocent one of all.
AMAZON.COM REVIEW
reviewed Back Roads on + 103 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
A wonderful, haunting drama of a young boy and his three sisters all forced to make it on their own after their mother shoots and kills their father. This story will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and you will also find yourself rooting for Harley throughout. Loved this first novel by Tawni O'Dell.
reviewed Back Roads on + 25 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This is a great book. Excellent plot, great characters. Very fast read.
reviewed Back Roads on + 162 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
O'Dell is, for me, a local writer, and she's sure got it down when she describes rural Western Pennsylvania. This book gives you a lot to think about: clear characters facing real problems, beautiful writing that'll stay with you. I first read this a few years ago and parts of it have stayed with me since.
reviewed Back Roads on + 15 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Very good read. A bit twisted, but in a totally, frighteningly believable way. Do NOT read this book if you have been abused or have a hard time dealing with the reality of the darkside of human nature. Very well written. It will make your heart thump right along with the characters !
reviewed Back Roads on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This book was very deep and emotional. It brings you into the lives of a very dysfunctional family where incredible circumstances leave 3 children without parents. It was disturbing at times, but no more so than life can be at times. Overall this book was definitely worth reading.
reviewed Back Roads on + 23 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Synopsis
Times are tough in the Altmyer family. With the maniacally abusive Mr. Altmyer dead and Mrs. Altmyer serving time for his murder, adolescent, hormone-raging Harley has just inherited the role of caretaker for his three younger sisters. Told from Harley's point of view, this debut novel set in a rural Pennsylvania mining town tells of his experiences as a teenage father figure, a lover of an older single mother, and a primary suspect in a brutal murder.
reviewed Back Roads on + 14 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Wonderful characterization. Slight twist in plot in the end, good read.
reviewed Back Roads on + 21 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Wouldn't have pegged this book to necessarily be an Oprah's pick. It's gritty and dark with some funnier moments. Good read.
reviewed Back Roads on + 4 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
With Harley Altmyer's father dead and his mother in jail Harley is left to care for his three younger sisters. Only Harley's endearing humor, his love for his sisters, and his bumbling heroics can redeem them all. Oprah Bookclub selection.
reviewed Back Roads on + 4 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book kept me reading until the very end. Although there were some disturbing elements in it, the conclusion was worth the wait.
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Helpful Score: 1
I truly enjoyed this book, It was very heartwarming and hard to put down, A real page turner.
reviewed Back Roads on + 9 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This is the first time I have ever read this particular author but it was a very good book. It was also an Oprah's book club book.
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Helpful Score: 1
An Oprah's Book Club selection. A somewhat depressing story is redeemed with strong characters and an interesting ending.
reviewed Back Roads on + 34 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Loved this book....a great read!!
reviewed Back Roads on + 174 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Harley Altmyer is trapped by his responsibilities. His only escape is the occasional six-pack and the beautiful young woman whose unexpected attentions provide Harley with the only pleasure in his crzy life.

Then things start to fall apart. Only Harley's hymor, his love for his sisters, and his bumbling heroics can redeem them all.
reviewed Back Roads on + 113 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This was one Oprah book I did not like. The storyline was hard to follow and contrived at times.
reviewed Back Roads on + 45 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A combination of disturbing and thought provoking.
reviewed Back Roads on + 113 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Harley Attmyer had a dead father and a mother in jain and three sisters to look after. He also has two low paying jobs. His only escape is an occasional six pack and the attention of a beautiful girl.
reviewed Back Roads on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
not a read for everyone. If you enjoy tales of dysfunction, you might enjoy.

rather surprised this was an Oprah book and I've read many of her selections.
reviewed Back Roads on + 13 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The protagonist, Harley Altmyer, reminded me of Paul Newman's character in 'Nobody's Fool'--essentially thought of as the town loser/bum, yet the person who holds all the strands together to keep everything from falling apart.
reviewed Back Roads on + 379 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Intense read one of the better Oprah books.
reviewed Back Roads on + 49 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Loved it. Another sweet coming of age story.
reviewed Back Roads on + 14 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
a very quick and enjoyable read. Graphic and disturbing sex scenes and a psychological twist.. You will like it, I read it in less than 2 days.
reviewed Back Roads on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book kept my attention. It is a character driven book. I had to force myself not to judge the characters. I chose to put myself in their shoes.
reviewed Back Roads on + 11 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Back Roads is a well written, gritty novel about growing up poor and having your innocence yanked at a tender age due to tough life circumstances. The characters breathe real air and their lot in life will surely make you appreciate your own. A good read.
reviewed Back Roads on + 12 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Intense - great read.
reviewed Back Roads on + 53 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This was a really good book, although it is rather long. It is about a boy who is taking care of his sisters while his mom is in jail for killing his Dad. He manages to find himself in love with a lady down the road from them, and starts an affair with her. This is a really good book that I enjoyed. It was a long book, and I found myself very involved with all the characters.
reviewed Back Roads on + 43 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I will not say this is the best book I've ever read, but it did hold my interest. The beginning is a little jumbled but a little further on it starts to make sense. Worth the time to read.
reviewed Back Roads on + 158 more book reviews
A very heartbreaking story about child abuse. Well written I couldn't put it down.
reviewed Back Roads on + 19 more book reviews
Quite a dysfunctional family. Good book, yet sad.
reviewed Back Roads on + 15 more book reviews
I really enjoyed this book. I'm not an Oprah fan, but decided to try this one from her book-club, I'm glad I did.
reviewed Back Roads on + 92 more book reviews
Paraphrased from back cover: College aged Harley grapples with his sisters, his jobs, and his lover in this comic and suspenseful story.
reviewed Back Roads on + 7 more book reviews
Just a wonderful book. Very well developed characters and a readable story that hooks you. A well deserved "Oprah bookk".
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One of the best books I have read! Heartbreaking yet extremely moving!
reviewed Back Roads on + 3 more book reviews
Found this book by accident at the local library and couldn't put it down. This book was strange but intriguing and had so many unique twists and turns. There are very few Oprah books that I enjoy, however, this is one of them. After reading this I actually had to go and get myself a copy to reread in the future.
reviewed Back Roads on + 5 more book reviews
Loved it!
Julie
reviewed Back Roads on + 3 more book reviews
This was an Oprah selection. It is a very moving story about children living on their own after parents become unavailable/ Made me laugh and cry.
reviewed Back Roads on
A quick read. Absorbing, but like all Oprah's picks it is depressing. Deals with child abuse, murder, insanity, incest, adultery...not light and fluffy.
reviewed Back Roads on + 48 more book reviews
An Oprah book list book which is a somewhat sad insight into the plight of a young man trying to keep his family together. alot of responsibility for one so young. A very good book
reviewed Back Roads on + 7 more book reviews
Great Book
reviewed Back Roads on + 38 more book reviews
Often comic, sometimes shocking, sometimes sexy, sometimes tragic, Back Roads is the story of 19 year old Harley Altmyer's attempt to deal with his upside down life. His mother's in prison for killing his father and Harley's in charge of caring for his three younger siblings, all girls.
reviewed Back Roads on + 334 more book reviews
I was spellbound throughout the entire novel. This author is truly one to be watched eagerly for any new books she writes.
reviewed Back Roads on + 35 more book reviews
a fast-moving human drama, great story!
reviewed Back Roads on + 8 more book reviews
this book got me from the first page.it was very moving,and heartfelt.this is a must read book.even oprah suggests it
reviewed Back Roads on + 35 more book reviews
An "Opras book club" book about Harley a nineteen year old who takes on responsibility for his younger sisters after his mother's incarceration for his fathers murder.Harley is a virgin until meeting his older, married neighbor who is the mother of his little sisters best friend. He jugles two low paying jobs & his worries about his sisters and emerging questions about his father, mother, & sisters , in addition to his own emerging sexuality.A surprise, and disturbing and sad ending. For the most part, I enjoyed the book
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I could not put this book down. I had to keep reading until I finished.
reviewed Back Roads on + 32 more book reviews
Ok but strange.
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Loved this one...hard to put down!!
reviewed Back Roads on + 459 more book reviews
Harley is trapped in the responsibilities of caring for his sisters, working 2 dead end low paying jobs.

Then he meets the beautiful young woman who provides him with the only bright spot in his mundane exiostence.
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jacket cover "an intense story of family, frailty, and dysfunction, set in the coal-mining town of western pennsylvania.
reviewed Back Roads on + 3 more book reviews
This is a book that was chosen for Oprah's BookClub.
reviewed Back Roads on + 21 more book reviews
Pretty good book..read it in one day.
reviewed Back Roads on + 39 more book reviews
Great book! Hard to read because it's the dark side of humanity but really a great story that needs to be told!
reviewed Back Roads on + 13 more book reviews
Anyone who has lived in rural US can relate to this book. I really appreciate Tawny O'Dell.
reviewed Back Roads on + 13 more book reviews
New York Times Bestseller!! Oprah's Book Club!!
Harley Altmyer, the heartbreaking, hilarious, and lovable hero of Tawni O'Dell's riveting debut novel, has more on his shoulders than most guys his age. With his father dead and his mother in jail for the murder, Harley is trapped by his responsibilities, juggling two low-paying jobs and the care of his three younger sisters. His only escape is the occasional six-pack -- and in the beautiful young woman whose unexpected attentions provide Harley with pretty much the only pleasure in his crazy, chaotic life.
But while Harley is struggling to keep it together, things start to fall apart, leading to a series of staggering surprises. Then, only Harley's endearing humor, his love for his sisters, and his bumbling heroics can redeem them all...
reviewed Back Roads on + 200 more book reviews
Harley Altmyer has more on his shoulders than most guys his age. With his father dead and his mother in jail for the murder, Harley is trapped by his responsibilities. juggling two low-paying jobs and the care of his three younger sisters. His only escape is in the occasional six-pack-and in the beautiful young woman whose unexpected attentions provide Harley with pretty much the only pleasure in his crazy, chaotic life.
This book is a "Oprah's Book Club" with readers guide inside.
reviewed Back Roads on + 8 more book reviews
An interesting view of a sad life.
reviewed Back Roads on + 3 more book reviews
A story that captivates you. It kept me interested.
reviewed Back Roads on + 216 more book reviews
Funny and interesting - a good book!

Oprah Book Club® Selection, March 2000: Not since S.E. Hinton (The Outsiders) has a female novelist penned such a tough and titillating portrait of lower-class, crime-ridden manhood. Set in "beautiful, ruined" western Pennsylvania, amid Eat n' Parks and Lick n' Putts, Tawni O'Dell's Back Roads follows Harley Altmyer as he walks a raging, self-conscious line between crime and innocence. Why is he being held by the authorities, and what's he so mad about? In the recent past, it's his mother, who murdered his father and went to jail for life. In the far past, it's Dad himself: an abusive, hopeless man. In the present, it's the responsibility for his three younger sisters, which makes him fantasize about smashing their faces in until they "spit up bloody macaroni and cheese."

But Harley still has a conscience--barely. He doesn't strike his sisters; he's been trying to protect them. The oldest is sassy Amber, 16, who's having sex on the living-room couch with townies who abuse her; next is frighteningly stoic 12-year-old Misty, with eyes "a glazed brown like a medicine bottle"; the youngest is adorable Jody, who at 6 pens to-do lists with items such as "PRAY FOR DADDYS SOWL." Overburdened with the practicalities of life, and the ever-mounting losses, Harley has started seeing his own words floating in the air in front of his face. "CLOSURE. TRUTH. MOST GUYS."

This first novel opens well. O'Dell does an impeccable job of making Harley both brutal and forgivable. Here, for instance, he retreats to his basement room: "I lay there until dawn, thinking about Dad, and feeling the same useless frustration I had felt the first time I had seen him piss on a sparkling white drift of pure new snow."

But that delicacy is soon lost, and Back Roads risks becoming an overabundant affair, pitched high, with a roller-coaster trajectory. Harley's anger metamorphoses into an almost bloodthirsty lust for his sexy, middle-aged neighbor, which stirs up myriad forbidden family secrets. Misty, it turns out, has been hiding something. Amber revolts. And even Jody's scribbles turn malevolent. While the writing is good throughout, the tension and plotting assume an unpleasant adolescent posture--bodice-ripping passion and mordant gloom combined. Nonetheless, O'Dell's assured and touching portrait of her protagonist emerges unscathed. You will likely remember luckless, fated Harley Altmyer long after his tsunamic tale has receded. And no matter what the judge decides, you will understand why this impoverished, angry young man was probably the most innocent one of all.
reviewed Back Roads on + 59 more book reviews
Like this. Oprah picks good books.
reviewed Back Roads on
Not my favorite book....but if you agree with Oprahs choices you will like it.
reviewed Back Roads on + 530 more book reviews
One of Oprah's books.......an intense story of family
reviewed Back Roads on + 7 more book reviews
This is an Oprah's Book Club book
reviewed Back Roads on + 4 more book reviews
Oprah's Book Club book. Good story.
reviewed Back Roads on + 711 more book reviews
An intense story of family, fraility, and dysfunction, set in the coal-mining towns of western Pennsylvania. Harley Altmyer, the heartbreaking, hilarious, and lovable hero of Tawni O'Dell's riveting debut novel, has more on his shoulders than most guys his age. With his father dead and his mother in jail for the murder, Harley is trapped by his responsibilities, juggling two low-paying jobs and the care of his three younger sisters. His only escape is in the occasional six-pack---and in the beautiful young woman whose unexpected attentions provide Harley with pretty much the only pleasure in his crazy, chaotic life. But while Harley is struggling to keep it together, things start to fall apart, leading to a series of staggering surprises. Then only Harley's endearing humor his love for his sisters, and his bumbling heroics can redeem them all...
reviewed Back Roads on + 132 more book reviews
I think this book was the most disgusting I have ever read. Where does the mind set go when the author writes of such graphic sex, incest etc.?! My hope is this author will never write again! How can a woman, mother & wife write such trash?Anyones welcome to my copy!!! Yuk!
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This book was an Oprah's Book club pick.
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This is a HARDBACK Copy, not a paperback!~
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This is a hardcover copy.
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NY Times Bestseller, Oprah's Book Club
reviewed Back Roads on
This is a hardcover book it would not let me pick that option when posting
reviewed Back Roads on + 5 more book reviews
this is actual a hardcover
reviewed Back Roads on
This is a hardcover copy. This book was excellent, graphic in parts, and incredible for this writer's first novel.
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