A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better by Benjamin Wood

A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better is an unnerving and raw novel about the aftereffects of violence and trauma. One morning in 1995, Daniel and his estranged father Francis set off on a road trip that is meant to help fix their relationship. Daniel’s mother doesn’t think it will, thinking that Francis will slide into his usual unpredictable ways. The further Daniel and his father drive, the more this turns out to be a trip unlike any other, and soon his father’s desperation and violence will be fully unleashed, and Daniel will bear the scars of these few days for the rest of his life.

It is hard to know what to expect from this novel when you start, but it quickly sets up the looking back on trauma and a tense situation that the narrator has obsessed over ever since. The story is not simple: Daniel tells it as remembered, but also with lies and bias and an intertwined audiobook that was engrained into the events. This makes the style intense and often visceral, but also musing on the impact of memory and how things are viewed by different people. The novel feels distinctive and unusual, menacing and focused on the description of the everyday English landscapes forever tied to violence for Daniel.

Wood’s novel is worth reading even if the sound of it doesn’t immediately grab your attention: it is more than its summary, an unnerving read that uses unreliability to depict childhood trauma and a lingering menace to build suspense for what must inevitably come.

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