Erryn reviews ‘On Davis Row’ by N.R. Walker. This book was released by the author on November 25, 2017 330 pages. The audiobook was narrated by Joel Leslie and published by Tantor Media. The audio was released July 31, 2018 and is 11 hours and 2 minutes long. Erryn purchased a copy for review.
Why I read this book: After having read ‘On Davis Row’ I had to listen to the audio.
Nearing the end of a suspended jail sentence should unlock a brighter future for CJ Davis, only the chip on his shoulder is as hard to shift as his bad reputation. Born into a family of career criminals who live down Davis Road, an address the cops have dubbed Davis Row, his name alone is like a rap sheet that makes optimism impossible.
Brand-new parole officer Noah Huxley is determined to see the good in men like CJ. After all, he knows firsthand that bad things can happen to good people. His colleagues mock his doe-eyed optimism, but Noah soon sees CJ’s bad attitude and bravado are weapons he uses to keep people at a distance.
Both men know one simple mistake can change a life forever. At first glance, they might seem to be polar opposites. Yet underneath, they’re not that different at all.
See my review of the book here: review
Noah: You shouldn’t smoke, it’s bad for your health.
C.J.: You shouldn’t tell a smoker to quit. It’s bad for YOUR health.
I loved this book.
The book was awesome, but the audio was phenomenal. Any N.R. Walker book goes straight to the top of my TBR, and an audio narrated by Joel Leslie? I had zero patience for waiting.
When I was waxing poetic about the book after having read it, a friend asked me to explain why I loved the book. I thought I had provided the explanation in my review, but she challenged me to go deeper.
So here goes.
N.R. Walker is a talented writer. I don’t say this lightly as I have read thousands of books and listened to hundreds of audiobooks and N.R.’s works of fiction are consistently among my favourites. (Her latest, ‘Galaxies and Oceans’ is in my top 5 of all time.) That being said, I prefer her later books to the earlier ones. To me, that is often the sign of a good author—someone dedicated to the craft. Each new book – no matter the content – shows greater depth of character, of narrative, of story. N.R.’s men are so much more than just two guys meeting and hooking up and having their happily ever after.
Noah Huxley and C.J. Davis are two such men. Noah has just moved to Maitland, and on his first weekend in town, he goes out to get something to celebrate his new home. He winds up with lemon- and eucalyptus-scented candles. C.J., for his part, can see the division in 10 Mile Creek as being a chasm because he lives on “the wrong side of town. My side of town.”
Both are, in essence, very lonely men. I understand that. I can even relate to it, and I believe most readers can as well. Who can’t name a time in their lives when they weren’t lonely? When they didn’t feel alone?
So, despite the power imbalance and relationship dynamic of parolee and corrections officer, when the two men run into each other at the only store in 10 Mile Creek, it’s a bit of a miracle (or speaks to their loneliness) that the two men agree to eat together (a burger with beet root and pineapple?!?! I thought pineapple on pizza was questionable…)
And the men have very strong reactions to each other. C.J. thinks Noah has “blond hair, blue eyes, and a jaw that could cut glass” while Noah thinks, “I don’t know what it was about him stuck with me. Like a pulled thread on a woolen blanket, holding its own at the moment but it could unravel if I wasn’t careful”. Yet in the seriousness and solemnity of their professional relationship, there are moments of humour. For instance, the men have fun naming Noah’s car.
This must be a guy thing, because I just bought a car and it never occurred to me to name it. (Okay, I can think of one famous erotic book where the female lead named her car, so maybe it’s just me.)
Now I wish C.J. and Noah were here to name my car. Apparently it has to be a ‘her’. Any suggestions?
But I digress. Humour? Well, there’s the night Noah overindulges…
N: I’m very familiar with the back door option, yes.
C.J.: That was the worst joke ever.
N: No it wasn’t. I’m really funny.
C.J.: You’re really drunk.
And once they’re inside?
C.J.: Jesus, you’re a real pain in my ass.
N: I’d like to be. If you’d let me. Get it? Pain in your ass? Told you I was funny.
As barriers start breaking down between the men, Noah begins to realize just how isolated C.J. is. He has Pops who has raised him and Mr. Barese who gave him a chance and a job, despite knowing C.J. was a ‘Davis’. Noah was warned about the men who have inhabited Davis Road, and a simple glance at C.J.’s file was all every officer has ever done before, but Noah has decided he will be different. He reads C.J.’s file and the details are heart-breaking. I wish I could say C.J. is the exception and a rarity, but there are so many kids who live in poverty and wind up in the criminal justice system. Along with the ‘Davis’ label, C.J. has also been raised without physical warmth. Love? Yes, from Pops. But affection? No. So when Noah hugs C.J., both men come to profound realizations. Both men see the importance of touch. I get that. I have sought out touch – hugs, holding hands – anything to connect with other people.
The ‘professional’ relationship keeps the men from moving their relationship forward. The ethics of this are questionable, but this is real life. Sometimes there are inappropriate feelings and relationships. The men can’t move to official ‘boyfriends’, but there is a progression that was wonderful to watch. Far from insta-love, these two take time to get to know each other. There are a few misunderstandings, and ironically, it is C.J. who in the end pushes for better communication. He also pushes Noah to talk about the tragedies from his past. Heartbreak. Both men have been to Hell and are now working their way back.
I had my doubts of how they would make it work because there were just so many barriers. Yet Ms. Walker guided the men (and me) to a happy ending.
C.J.: Do you like olives?
N: Good Lord, no! They’re little black circles of nastiness.
C.J.: Thank God. For a second there I thought I was going to have to call this whole unofficial boyfriend thing off.
N: Olives are a deal breaker? Duly noted.
Huh. Craziness? Pineapple on burgers is okay but no olives on pizza? Barbarians.
Now, on to Joel Leslie. I love Joel Leslie. When he narrated C.J. trying to read, my heart stuttered. When he portrayed Noah being drunk, I felt he hit the nail on the head. The feeling and emotion Joel infused into his narration got to me. Over and over again, I was pulled in. Reading the book was moving, but listening to the audiobook was powerful and transcending. I look forward to new magic from Joel and N.R. Thank you for this treasure.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
She is many things; a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who she gives them life with words.
She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things…but likes it even more when they fall in love. She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.
She’s been writing ever since…