Read Remark Book Review - The Never Open Desert Diner

Book Review: The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson

One sentence summary:

Ben runs a small-time truck delivery service in a desolate corner of the desert.


Wow, my description does not do this book any justice!

But really, it’s in keeping with the spirit of The Never Open Desert Diner. Unadorned. Simple. Sparse. No need for pomp and frills. Shoot straight and don’t yammer on about it.

The Never-Open Desert Diner is a slow burn.

I came to this book straight on the heels of American Housewife, in which every word seemingly changes the narrative and paragraphs are shockwaves, ceaselessly bouncing and jolting the reader.

I had to restart this book a few times to force myself to slow down, stop daydreaming, and pay attention.

It’s easy to lose patience. I’m glad I didn’t. James Anderson’s book is worth the burn.

After simmering for a while, the book gradually builds the heat until it’s a full boil.

Every revelation, every conversation, every dang step across the desert sand fills me with dread for the potential of what could happen next.

James Anderson’s book is similar in the best of ways to Stephen King’s writing. Particularly, one of my very favorite King novellas, Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut from the Skeleton Crew collection of stories. King and Anderson both take a lot of time to establish a sense of place and character. They let characters and readers alike settle into the story, breathe it in, sit with it for a while, then (and only then!) turn up the heat…gradually…ever so gradually.

The Never Open Desert Diner made it to The Morning News’ 2017 Tournament of Books (ToB) long list, which is how I heard of it. Didn’t make the shortlist, but neither did any of the other books on the long list I had already read. None of them! I have some catch-up reading to do if I want to play the ToB shortlist bracket (and who wouldn’t? Gambling on books! You’re going down, sucka’!…I may be a touch competitive).

This book is rife with heartbreak. I suppose that’s the way of the desert. Dry, hot, unforgiving…but unexpectedly beautiful.