Thursday, March 19, 2015

On the Road Again - New and classic road fiction

It's about the journey, not the destination - such is premise of Road Fiction in which an individual leaves the familiar to embark on a voyage of self-discovery. Sometimes there is trauma and the individual must leave and sometimes the leaving is incidental and not remarkable until that personal growth has happened. When thinking of road novels, most will think of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, a semi-autobiographical fictionalized account of Kerouac's journey with Neal Cassady in the 1940s which became a defining symbol of the Beat Generation. In the novel Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty travel back and forth across the country in a series of planes, trains and automobiles absorbing all experiences they encounter and embracing a bohemian life. Kirkus Review wrote in 1957 "The emergent and motivating values are manifest in a sensualistic adoration of Experience at any level, at any time, at any place. Conversations which last for days, drunken brawls, love-making, protracted stopovers with a young family here, a widowed woman there, hoboes, agricultural workers -- everything must be seen and heard to mask and sublimate the restless uncertainty of their ways and days."

Recently published road fiction:

Mobile Library by David Whitehouse

"An archivist of his mother," Bobby Nusku spends his nights meticulously cataloging her hair, clothing, and other traces of the life she left behind. Out in the neighborhood, Bobby encounters Rosa, a peculiar girl whose disability invites the scorn of bullies. When Bobby takes Rosa home, he meets her mother, Val, a lonely divorcee, whose job is cleaning a mobile library. Bobby and Val come to fill the emotional void in each other's lives, but their bond also draws unwanted attention. After Val loses her job and Bobby is beaten by his father, they abscond with Rosa in the sixteen-wheel bookmobile. On the road they are joined by Joe, a mysterious but kindhearted ex-soldier. This "puzzle of people" will travel across England, a picaresque adventure that comes to rival those in the classic books that fill their library-on-wheels." publisher

Tinker and Blue by Frank MacDonald

"At age 19 and 20, respectively, Tinker Dempsey and his oldest friend Blue figured it was time they followed generations of Cape Bretoners and crossed the Canso Causeway, if for no other reason than to find a few stories they could call their own when their wandering ways brought them back home. It had been Blue’s idea to drive their fourth-hand 1957 push-button Plymouth out to San Fran­cisco to look at those Haight-Ashbury types. Hitch-hiking hippies and homespun humour and wisdom, love troubles and trouble with the law – Tinker and Blue’s California adventures are a funny and poignant flashback." publisher

Pedal by Chelsea Rooney

"Julia Hoop, a twenty-five-year-old counselling psych student, is working on her thesis, exploring an idea which makes her graduate supervisor squirm. She is conducting interview after interview with a group of women she affectionately calls the Molestas - women whose experience of childhood sexual abuse did not cause physical trauma. Julia is the expert, she claims, because she has the experience; her own father, Dirtbag, a furniture designer and failed poet, disappeared when she was eight leaving behind nothing but his Dylan Thomas book, and a legacy of addiction and violence. But the more Julia learns, the less certain she is of what she believes. When both her boyfriend and her graduate advisor break up with her on the same day, Julia leaves her city of Vancouver on a bicycle for a cross-Canada trip in search of her father, or so she tells people." publisher

The Right Thing by Amy Conner

"On a scorching August day in 1963, seven-year-old Annie Banks meets the girl who will become her best friend. Skinny, outspoken Starr Dukes and her wandering preacher father may not be accepted by polite society in Jackson, Mississippi, but Annie and Starr are too busy sharing secrets and playing elaborate games of Queen for a Day to care. Then, as suddenly as she appeared in Annie's life, Starr disappears.  She barely recognizes Starr when they meet twenty-seven years after that first fateful summer, but the bond formed so long ago quickly reemerges. Starr, pregnant by a powerful married man who wants her to get out of town, has nowhere to turn. And Annie, determined not to fail her friend this time, agrees to drive Starr to New Orleans to get money she's owed. During the eventful road trip that follows, Annie will confront the gap between friendship and responsibility; between her safe, ordered existence and the dreams she's grown accustomed to denying." publisher

Driving With the Top Down by Beth Harbison

"Three women, two weeks, one convertible: sometimes life doesn't take you in the direction you expect... Colleen Bradley is married with a teenage son, a modest business repurposing and reselling antiques, and longtime fear that she was not her husband’s first choice. When she decides to take a road trip down the east coast to check out antique auctions for her business, she also has a secret ulterior motive. Her one-woman mission for peace of mind is thrown slightly off course when sixteen year old Tamara becomes her co-pilot. The daughter of Colleen’s brother-in-law, Tamara is aware that people see her as a screw-up, but she knows in her heart that she’s so much more. She just wishes her father could see it, too." publisher

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