book cover of Back Roads

Back Roads

(1999)
A novel by

 
 
Awards
Oprah's Book Club Best Book (nominee)
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. --Jean Lenihan


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Used availability for Tawni O'Dell's Back Roads

Hardback Editions

1999 : USA Hardback
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
ISBN: 0-670-88760-9 / 978-0-670-88760-6 (USA edition)
Publisher: Viking Penguin
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


August 2000 : USA Hardback
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
ISBN: 0-7862-2754-0 / 978-0-7862-2754-9 (USA edition)
Publisher: Thorndike Pr
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   


March 2000 : USA Hardback
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Title: Back Roads (Oprah's Book Club)
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
ISBN: 0-670-89418-4 / 978-0-670-89418-5 (USA edition)
Publisher: Viking Adult
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


January 2000 : USA Hardback
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Title: Back Roads (Oprah's Book Club Series)
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
ISBN: 1-4028-8282-3 / 978-1-4028-8282-1 (USA edition)
Publisher: Viking Penguin
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   


Paperback Editions

January 2001 : USA Mass Market Paperback
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
ISBN: 0-451-20234-1 / 978-0-451-20234-5 (USA edition)
Publisher: Signet
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


June 2004 : USA Paperback
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
ISBN: 0-451-21245-2 / 978-0-451-21245-0 (USA edition)
Publisher: Berkley
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


December 2001 : UK Paperback
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
ISBN: 0-552-14967-5 / 978-0-552-14967-9 (UK edition)
Publisher: Black Swan
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


August 2001 : UK Paperback
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
ISBN: 0-552-99959-8 / 978-0-552-99959-5 (UK edition)
Publisher: Black Swan
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


August 2001 : USA Paperback
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
ISBN: 0-7862-2762-1 / 978-0-7862-2762-4 (USA edition)
Publisher: Thorndike Pr
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


June 2001 : UK Paperback
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
ISBN: 0-14-029342-6 / 978-0-14-029342-5 (UK edition)
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


May 2000 : USA Paperback
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'DELL
ISBN: 0-670-83441-6 / 978-0-670-83441-9 (USA edition)
Publisher: Viking
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


Audio Editions

August 2018 : USA Audio CD
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
ISBN: 1-72132-757-6 / 978-1-72132-757-7 (USA edition)
Publisher: Blackstone on Brilliance Audio
Availability: Amazon   Amazon AU   


August 2015 : USA Audio CD
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Title: Back Roads: Library Edition
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
ISBN: 1-5046-1852-1 / 978-1-5046-1852-6 (USA edition)
Publisher: Blackstone Audio Inc
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


August 2015 : USA Audio CD
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni ODell
ISBN: 1-5046-1854-8 / 978-1-5046-1854-0 (USA edition)
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


August 2015 : USA MP3 CD
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni ODell
ISBN: 1-5046-1853-X / 978-1-5046-1853-3 (USA edition)
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


August 2015 : USA Audio edition
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Availability: Amazon   


August 2015 : Canada Audio edition
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Availability: Amazon CA   


April 2000 : USA Audio Cassette
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
ISBN: 0-7366-5104-7 / 978-0-7366-5104-2 (USA edition)
Publisher: Books on Tape, Inc.
Availability: Amazon   Amazon CA   


January 2000 : USA Audio Cassette
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
ISBN: 0-694-52291-0 / 978-0-694-52291-0 (USA edition)
Publisher: HarperAudio
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


2000 : USA Audio Cassette
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
ISBN: 0-7887-4629-4 / 978-0-7887-4629-1 (USA edition)
Publisher: Recorded Books
Availability: Amazon   


Kindle Editions

March 2012 : Australia, UK Kindle edition
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
Publisher: Transworld Digital
Availability: Amazon UK   Amazon AU   


January 2001 : USA, Canada Kindle edition
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Title: Back Roads
Author(s): Tawni O'Dell
Publisher: Berkley
Availability: Amazon   Amazon CA