One summer night along a darkened road in rural Connecticut, ten-year old Josh Learner is struck and killed by a speeding car driven by Dwight Arno, also carrying his sleeping son Sam. Arno flees the scene leaving Josh's father Ethan, a local college professor of English, as a witness to the hit and run death of his son. As days pass and no one is caught, he struggles to console his wife Grace and eight-year old daughter Emma, and maintain his own sanity. Arno is a lawyer with a checkered past, divorced and mending a difficult relationship with his son, Sam. Sam is the same age of the dead boy. Arno accidentally broke Sam's jaw in an ugly fight with his wife Ruth five years earlier that erupted from his learning about her affair and initial steps toward divorce. Ethan Learner, Grace, and Emma all find ways to place the blame for Josh's death on themselves and others at various times.
Ruth, Sam's mother, teaches piano and is remarried to Norris Weldon, an insurance salesman. One of her students is Emma Learner, Josh's sister. The Learners domestic lifestyle spirals downward as the loss of their son haunts each of them. Grace, is particularly devastated, ceasing normal everyday activities she once knew, putting her job as a garden designer on hold, and she acting exceedingly bitter toward Ethan. Arno is devastated by what he has done and the shame of not turning himself in to law enforcement. His relationship with his secretary Donna, whom he has been sleeping with, has completely collapsed, his position at the law firm run by his boss Jack Cutter is precarious at best, and he has a knack for ruining the Sunday visitations he spends with his son.
As months pass and winter is begins, Ethan Learner is infuriated when Sergeant Burke, the policeman handling the hit and run investigation, informs him the case is now a low priority. Learner begins to piece together bits of information and clues to Arno's identity as the driver who killed his son. An emotional confrontation between the two diametrically opposed fathers ensues that will surprise most readers. Reservation Road is an intense, emotional, and somber tale of anger, despair, and coping from three very different viewpoints. Written from the perspective of the three adults most affected by the events of the story, John Burnham Schwartz has crafted a harrowing novel dealing with every parent's worst fear of losing a child.
This synopsis report prepared by David Fletcher