The Rhythm of the Road by Albyn Leah Hall

The Rhythm of the Road by Albyn Leah Hall

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover, 309 pages, 2007

Rating: 10/10

Reason for Reading: I’d been reading The Grand Ole Opry so the country music parallel seemed apt.

Synopsis: Jo doesn’t have an average life for a teenage girl, but it’s one she loves – on the road in England with her trucker father, listening to country music and enjoying the open road with very few responsibilities. Her life is changed when they pick up a hitch-hiker named Cosima, a gorgeous musician who offers opportunities (fame, beauty, a friend) that Jo can barely imagine. Their lives meet up over the next few years until Jo is sixteen and her father has a depressive breakdown, leaving Jo to pursue everything she never knew she wanted – Cosima’s glamorous and utterly wonderful life.

Why you should read this book: I’ll give you the warning that should have been on the cover of the book: Jo might actually, physically break your heart. The teenage years are tough enough for anyone, but without any female influence on her life, Jo is starved for female attention, along with all of the experiences she’s never had, from friends to boyfriends to make-up, because it’s always just been her and her father on the road. She idolizes Cosima to such a degree that she can’t see what a burden she’s placing on a young woman with her own life to live, and it just kills you to read about Jo’s naïve longings. The writing is gorgeous, blending beauty with a gritty reality as Jo’s life starts to tailspin. The heart of both the road and of country music is brilliantly captured on the pages, as is the blistering teenage angst of a girl who just can’t fit it anywhere. Hall’s deft writing allows us to look at Jo and see what’s really going on even while Jo is convinced she’s being brutally honest with herself about what’s going on in with the people around her. Jo’s love of music continues to take her on travels as she follows Cosima’s band, finally forcing her to confront herself – and her past – in a perfectly apt ending, making The Rhythm of the Road an engrossing read from start to finish. Months after reading it, I just have to look at the cover to have all the details and emotions come flooding back – a sure sign that this is one that will stick with you.

Why you should avoid this book: Even if your adolescence wasn’t as extreme as Jo’s, expect to have those old feelings of insecure misery brought up – this must be that hopeless feeling that parents get when they see their kids stumbling through life, knowing there’s nothing they can do to make it easier.

Opening paragraph:

I was twelve years old when Cosima first rode with us.

Fabulous quotes:

I wondered if I was beautiful yet. I wondered if I was, like the girl in her song, the most beautiful girl in this one-legged, arse-backward, tumbleweed town. I knew that if I saw myself on the road as I was now – if I saw myself with my thumb out – I would ask Bobby to stop for me. I would want to give me a lift somewhere.

What neither of us expected was that the show would sell out.
The man at the door didn’t look as though he wanted to keep us out. He had a beard and a thin, gentle face and he looked like he cared about trees and animals. ‘It’s that award,’ he said. ‘The phone’s been ringing off the book here. You need to book these days.’
‘But we’re friends of the band.’
‘Maybe you’re on the guest list?’ He checked the list for our names. I saw a Bobby, but that was a Bobby Levine from Virgin Records.
‘She said we were on her guest list for life,’ I said.
‘”For life” is good. But she’d need to know you were coming tonight.’

Also recommended: The Girl I Wanted to Be by Sarah Grace McCandless; The Girls by Lori Lansens; Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

Also by this author: Deliria.

Author’s website:

Fun tidbit: Hall’s father created the ’80s soap ‘Dallas’.

Would I read more by this author? I’ll look forward to anything new, but I probably wouldn’t hunt down Deliria.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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