Albyn Leah Hall’s The Rhythm of the Road is a great read, but it takes a certain amount of investment on the part of the reader till the story gets up and going. The story concerns itself primarily with three characters. Josephine, or Jo, Pickering is a young girl searching for herself. Bobby is her truck-driving daddy. Cosima Stewart is an up-and-coming young country singer who has already gotten a fair amount of fame.
Hall puts these characters into motion, breaks them apart, then pulls them back together in different ways that make for a heart-wrenching story that ultimately satisfies in grand style. But there are a lot of bumps along the highways that Jo travels. This is a hard-eyed coming-of-age novel.
Oh, and I do need to mention that those highways are located in England, not America, and that Bobby drives a “lorry,” not a truck. A cursory glance at the plot makes it seem as though Hall ripped the story right from one of the country and western songs that play on the radio these days.
Jo is dealing with missing mother problems that a lot of readers will probably identify with on some level. A lot of families tend not to stay together these days. Jo’s mom was an American that married her dad, got pregnant and had Jo, and promptly disappeared. Bobby Pickering picked up the parenting slack in ways that most readers will sympathize with and respect, but he made his share of mistakes as well.
Cosima’s story line is good and actually reveals that a lot of the country and western music in the US and in England tends to go along the same lines for a lot of the same reasons.
But it’s Jo’s story, her travels and her quest that ultimately drive the story. Her search for self, especially after Bobby disappears, will captivate readers. Although the plot sounds far-fetched in many ways, Hall makes it all believable by being true to the characters and playing fair with the situations.
The local color of the bars, the highways, the cities and towns, all lend to the willing suspension of disbelief on part of the reader. Everything feels real.
The only problems I had with the novel were the initial slow pacing and the time changes. They contributed to each other, actually, but they also built the characters on several levels at once. Still, it jarred when I was reading a section set in the present, then got yanked back somewhere in the past to meet a different set of characters. Even some of the characters that existed in both time lines tended to be too disparate.
However, once Hall has the ball up and rolling, she doesn’t break pace too often. Everything is at stake and all the characters are involved in following their lives – and it’s interesting and weird how the author brings them together. Their separate motivations are never forgotten, and sometimes they’re at odds with each other.
The dialogue and scene descriptions were especially well done, but my preconceived notions of country and western music and truckers loomed constantly in the background. That’s just not what I imagine when I think of England. But now that those thoughts have been introduced, I know I won’t forget them due to this emotional and evocative novel.