Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens: A Review

rush home road
by Lori Lansens
(c) 2002; 2008 (paperback)
Back Bay Books
387 p

I finally kept my promise to myself to devote some quality hours to reading for the first time in months. Today I finished the novel I started on Mother's Day and that was technically a restart since I first began reading this book the day I did this Book Blurb post on it shortly after I received my review copy from Hachette last August. Do not blame the story for how long it took me to finish it. No story is less deserving of such blame. I set it aside reluctantly last October because of preparations for NaNoWriMo and before NaNo was over life had sent me on a six month detour that forced me to drop many things by the wayside.

No story could have had more resonance with the circumstances I found myself in as I read it this spring. Home was the theme--leaving home, returning home, nostalgia for home, yearning for a home, making a home of where you are--so it reverberated though my heart as I read it while staying in my Mother's home for six months, missing my own home which was really my in-laws' home and a place where I hadn't really thought I felt at home until I was looking back at it from the place that had once been my home but couldn't have felt less like my home when I first arrived in late December.

In Rush Home Road, Addy Shadd and Sharla Cody live in a trailer park in Ontario Canada and though they had roofs over their heads neither one felt much at home before life arranged for them to share a roof when five-year-old Sharla's mother packs her off to board with the elderly Addy for the summer. Having the little girl under her care opens a gushing well of memories for Addy but the memories are cleansing and healing. The memories wash over her as vivid as life and often Addy looses track of when in time she is.

Soon after Sharla's arrival with only the clothes she was wearing and a single small suitcase containing a single too-small red rubber boot, Addy learns that Sharla's mother has moved out of the trailer park with her boy friend leaving no forwarding address. The pity she feels for this child thus abandoned by her mother awakens the memories of the moment she was locked out of her parents' home the day her brother Leam died in a fight defending her honor. The day she walked out of her home town of Rusholme on the one road out of town, Rusholme Road, with only the clothes she wore and the baby in her belly which she loved already though it had been planted by rape, with the words 'rush home rush home rush home' keeping rhythm with her heart, with her steps.

From that very day Leam's spirit has been her guiding light, ever present through the crisis of her life . The summer of Sharla's arrival Leam is telling her that it isn't long now before she can come home but she has one last task and that is to find a home for Sharla. She begins by making one for her not only under her own roof but in her heart.

A second theme, tightly woven in with the one of 'home' is the one of 'belonging' which is highlighted by the racial identity of Addy, a colored woman raised in a town founded by ex-slaves where even in those years just before WWII was one of the few places in Canada where most property was owned by the colored. At the time of Sharla's arrival in the early 70s, Addy is struggling with the way she is expected to stop thinking and speaking of herself as 'colored'. The new 'correct' terms seem silly to her.

Sharla's mother, Collette is white, but Sharla is not. She and Collette lived in the 'white' end of the trailer park where the other children see Sharla's difference as license to taunt and tease and torment her with impunity. As do several of Collette's boyfriends. It wasn't only her different skin color that contributed to Sharla's sense of not belonging anywhere but it did play a role.

This story is also a musing on the meaning of story and its power to shape us. Especially of the stories we tell ourselves about the people and events in our life past and present. Addy's lonely life before Sharla's arrival had been swelled to bursting with the stories she had no one to tell having outlived all those who had reason to care about her stories. But Sharla had been as starved for story as she had been for love, food and security. She soaks up Addy's stories like a flower in a dessert rain and blooms under them.

This story is one of the most moving and powerful ones I've ever read.

1 tell me a story:

Sheila DeChantal 7/06/2009 6:20 AM  

This sounds good. The book itself made me stop and read your review.... the review made me think this is one I need to read. :)

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