Warner Books, November 2003 paperback
Reviewed by Sissy Jacobson
Andy Conners makes a decent living at his gas station, garage, and campgrounds on Route 66, about a mile from Sayre, Oklahoma. In depression era 1932, many of his customers are people leaving the dust bowl of the Midwest, heading for the promised land of California. They buy gas, have their automobiles and tires patched up, and some stay in the campgrounds. If they have no money, they pay in work around Andy's place. Most are honest, a few are dangerous. When a mysterious stranger arrives in a fancy automobile, Andy doesn't recognize him. But H.L. Yates owes Andy a big debt, and he's there to repay him. Two days after his arrival, he saves Andy's life, and stays on to run the business and see that Andy's two young daughters and his sister-in-law, Leona Dawson, are kept safe while Andy is in the hospital in the city.
Leona Dawson's brother Virgil, a dirty-minded, religious fanatic, who believes in beating his wife and children for any real or imagined infraction, has branded her a harlot. When Leona's sister Irene died two years before, Leona stayed on to help Andy and his girls. Because she's the subject of small town gossip that Virgil keeps stirred up, Leona seldom goes into Sayre. Now that Yates is there, the gossip has really heated up. Leona and the children resent Yates, but he soon proves his worth, and wins them over. Meanwhile Virgil decides that as head of the family, he is going to force Leona to leave Andy and the children and marry one of his cohorts. He is also determined to take the girls away from Andy and raise them to be "God fearing." While Andy is in the hospital, Virgil and the deputy make their moves. Will Yates and Leona be able to keep the girls safe? Will Yates win Leona over once he realizes he's in love with her?
MOTHER ROAD is the first book I've read by Dorothy Garlock. The plot and dialogue are realistic and the descriptive narration is an accurate portrayal for the time period. The story is mostly centered around everyday life during the depression, spiced with hints of danger from bootleggers, a deputy sheriff who is in cahoots with Virgil, a missing child, a murder, and a cross section of people traveling the MOTHER ROAD looking for a better life. It is of a simple, but hard time in America, and two people who find love when they least expect it. Dorothy Garlock's writing style is fairly simplistic, but she is an amazing storyteller. The story has stayed with me long after I turned the last page. MOTHER ROAD is the first in a series set along Route 66. The second book, HOPE'S HIGHWAY, is due out in hardcover in January 2004.
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