The Never-Open Desert Diner
A singularly compelling debut novel, about a desert where people go to escape their past, and a truck driver who finds himself at risk when he falls in love with a mysterious woman.
Ben Jones lives a quiet, hardscrabble life, working as a trucker on Route 117, a little-traveled road in a remote region of the Utah desert which serves as a haven for fugitives and others looking to hide from the world. For many of the desert's inhabitants, Ben's visits are their only contact with the outside world, and the only landmark worth noting is a once-famous roadside diner that hasn’t opened in years.
Ben's routine is turned upside down when he stumbles across a beautiful woman named Claire playing a cello in an abandoned housing development. He can tell that she's fleeing something in her past — a dark secret that pushed her to the end of the earth — but despite his better judgment he is inexorably drawn to her.
As Ben and Claire fall in love, specters from her past begin to resurface, with serious and life-threatening consequences not only for them both, but for others who have made this desert their sanctuary. Dangerous men come looking for her, and as they turn Route 117 upside down in their search, the long-buried secrets of those who've laid claim to this desert come to light, bringing Ben and the other locals into deadly conflict with Claire's pursuers. Ultimately, the answers they all seek are connected to the desert’s greatest mystery — what really happened all those years ago at the never-open desert diner?
In this unforgettable story of love and loss, Ben learns the enduring truth that some violent crimes renew themselves across generations. At turns funny, heartbreaking and thrilling, The Never-Open Desert Diner powerfully evokes an unforgettable setting and introduces readers to a cast of characters who will linger long after the last page.
A friend recommended this book to me. Which I am glad she did as I probably would not have read this book otherwise. It is hard to believe that this is Mr. Anderson's first book. He writes like a seasoned professional. Instantly I fell in love with Ben. There was this vulnerability about him that made him very approachable and likable. At times he even came off goofy but in a good way. Then there is Walt, owner of the café. Also, Claire, Ben's love interest. There are many other characters as well in this story that lend good voices. They are not just puppets or fillers to take up space in the story. They actually are just as important as the main storyline characters.
I got lost in the story and the location. I could picture what everyone looked like including Ben's truck, the diner, and even the sand in my shoes and the butter brittle ice cream. Which by the way I now have a craving for it. It has been a long time since I have ate this flavor of ice cream. I can't wait to read the next book by Mr. Anderson.