Book review: ‘Road’ unconventional

The road stretches long — and hard — in a remote area of Utah that trucker Ben Jones has been traveling nearly 20 years. It’s not exactly a Jack Kerouac road trip as this bleak stretch of road known as Route 117 is filled with treacherous curves, unpredictable weather and people more eccentric and peculiar than any beat poet imagined.

As he did in his 2015 debut, “The Never-Open Desert Diner,” James Anderson delivers an unconventional mystery melding near lyrical prose with a strong sense of atmosphere and an affinity for oddball characters. A sense of menace hangs over “Lullaby Road” (Crown), and when violence erupts, it’s expected, yet still surprising.

Ben is putting diesel in his rig when the manager of the Stop ‘n’ Gone Truck Stop tells him that something has been left for him at the eighth fuel island. The “something” turns out to be a child about 5 or 6 years old, with a note pleading for Ben to take the youngster named Juan because of “Bad Trouble.” The child is accompanied by a large protective white dog.

Along this wild ride, Ben soon finds that the child and the dog hold the key to painful secrets.

Anderson evocatively illustrates the beauty and harshness of Utah’s high desert while also delving deep into the characters and their motives for living where they do. The product of foster homes, the flawed and fascinating Ben just tries to get by each day, doing the right thing, while relishing the vastness.