I think one true mark of an effective piece of writing, or any other work of art for that matter, is in a readers’ ability to view it over and over again and get something new out of it each time. In this way, Joyride by Jack Ketchum passes that test. Remaining relevant and thought provoking through a second reading, this book evoked different ideas during this time around.
The first thing I thought about was how Carole and Lee were murderers. Yes, they murdered for what I thought was a good cause, at least in the top ten of Best Reasons to Bump Someone Off, if there ever was one. But they had still killed someone.
Carole’s ex-husband was the worst kind of abuser: richer than most people and full of crap. He would never have left her alone and since he threatened her with a gun and cut her with a knife before, he would have killed her at a later date if she’d allowed him to live. Someone like him didn’t just let things die down and fade away. His money would have allowed him to follow her wherever she could have tried to run from him and he was full of enough meanness to have done just that. If she wanted to live, she had to kill him.
Howard was a threat to Lee, as well. Not just in the way that he targeted Carole but because he would have gunned for him, too. He saw Lee as having deprived him of his personal property in Carole, so he would have killed him for that reason alone. If they hadn’t killed him, he would have eventually killed them. They would never have been able to escape him or live a normal life with children and a ripe old age of relaxation and peace.
They had the unfortunate circumstance of having been caught in the act of murdering Howard by another abuser, Wayne Lock. When I first read this book, I thought of Wayne as just a strange man who wanted a little more excitement in his life. Of course, as the plot developed, those thoughts went out the window and I realized he was more than just strange. This time around I was able to see from the beginning that he was an abuser more than he was ever a victim.
His mother indicates that she sexually molested him and this could be true. Wayne never indicates that anything untoward happened with his mother. But he did blame everyone and everything around him for his misfortune. Nothing that happened to him was his own fault. I know quite a few people like Wayne, who consider themselves blameless in their state of being, where they can’t control anything that happens to them. I’m glad they haven’t all jumped into the killing business like Wayne to try and grasp some of that perceived control back.
Wayne kills indiscriminately, just for the sake of killing. None of his victims did anything to him. He didn’t even know them. The neighbors he mowed down at the end had not really done anything to him, either, even though he claimed to have numerous transgressions in his book against them.
And this is the main difference between Carole and Lee and Wayne: Carole killed out of necessity and Wayne killed out of boredom. And craziness. I feel that Lee is actually a borderline character, one who easily could have gone either way. In a way, his death may have been because he was leaning more towards the idea of killing again, as he thought that was the only way to get rid of Wayne. He didn’t entertain any other solution. Although killing their tormentor would have been a life-saving act, that he didn’t consider there might be a way to simply subdue him or escape him indicated that he may have already developed a taste for murder as a solution to troublesome problems.
I was glad Rule helped Carole at the end of the book. He was more helpful than Lee, who instilled in her a new fear that she didn’t really love him and that their relationship or her life hadn’t been worth killing for. Rule provided her with a guilt free future, without her having to return gratitude or do anything except accept.