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The Rhythm of the Road: A Novel [Hardcover]

Albyn Leah Hall


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Book Description

Jan. 9 2007
The mesmerizing debut novel about driving trucks, loving music, and growing up.
 
A truck driver's daughter who grows up in the front seat of her father's truck, Jo shares her father's love of country music, junk food, and the open highway. Jo's life is a perfect slice of Americana, except that their "open road" is in England, and her father--the gentle,  melancholy Bobby Pickering--is from Northern Ireland. The only truly American thing about Jo is her mother, whom she has never met.
 
Jo is twelve when she and Bobby pick up hitchhiker Cosima Stewart, an American country singer whose band is touring England. They become dedicated fans, and Cosima, touched by the unlikely duo, comes to regard Jo with an indulgent, even sisterly, eye.
 
But when Jo is sixteen, Bobby sinks into serious despair and Jo seeks refuge in Cosima and the band. When Bobby disappears, Jo's adoration becomes obsessive as she follows her idol all to the way to California. Here, in the sweltering Mohave Desert and alone for the first time, Jo must face the painful truths of her own life, the mother she has never known, and the father she can't force from her mind. With shades of Zadie Smith and Mark Haddon, Albyn Leah Hall's powerful debut is a page-turning study of what frightens us about one another and ourselves; of how we run away and what we can't, ultimately, escape from.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1 edition (Jan. 9 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312359446
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312359447
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.4 x 2.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Raised on the road, Josephine Pickering loves her truck-driving daddy, Bobby, even though his sometimes-dark moods make him go silent. The only parent she's ever known (her mother abandoned the family shortly after Jo's premature birth), he lives and breathes country music and takes her with him on his truck routes though the U.K. where he picks up pretty hitchhikers, like singer Cosima Stewart. Jo, now a teenager, is discovering her sexuality and her independence, which isn't the easiest thing to do without a mother. She nurtures an infatuation with Cosima and her band, gets Bobby to take her to their shows and glows under their kindly attentions. When Bobby bottoms out the day after Jo loses her virginity to Cosima's boyfriend, Jo falls apart: she follows Cosima to California and spirals dangerously out of control. Her crackup, though, has its bonuses. Despite her violent outbursts, Jo is never malicious, and her most shocking acts are, in the end, a cry for love and for help. With its echoes of memories, country music and the love between a father and a daughter, Hall's debut manages to be both poignant and unsettling. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—Jo Pickering was abandoned by her mother at birth and raised by her father. Bobby, a truck driver, takes his daughter with him everywhere as he attends to his routes in England and Ireland. Once a guitar player, he has a habit of picking up hitchhiking musicians. When he picks up Cosima Stewart, a country-western singer from Texas, the impressionable 12-year-old becomes infatuated with her and her band. Jo convinces Bobby to attend one of the woman's performances and becomes starstruck when Cosima and another performer take her under their wing and teach her how to apply makeup and dress like they do. But Jo's attachment soon becomes a compulsion. She is desperate in her search for something that Cosima and even Bobby can't give her, and she spirals downward into increasingly destructive behavior. Events come to a head when Bobby mysteriously disappears and Jo must find ways to deal with her feelings of total abandonment. This is a compelling read about a strong girl determined to survive in a world that has not been kind to her. As Jo makes some serious mistakes in her search for love, she begins to see herself in a different light. This impressive first novel is strongly written—the characters' emotions feel genuine, the dialogue is believable, and readers will care about Jo.—Catherine Gilbride, Farifax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Closer Look at Country Music Culture! Jan. 23 2007
By Viviane Crystal - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"...will you look at the sight of it, Jo, will you have a look at that." Josephine and Bobby Pickering, father and daughter, spend most of the year driving cross-country in England. They live the life of free-spirits unhindered by the schedules and home issues of most people. They look at everything, exploring further when fascinated and dismissing when the subject or object fails to hold their attention.

But what they often think about and yet never fully explore are the people and events that have shaped their personality, that haunt, terrorize, and plague them with grief to the point of unresolved depression. So Bobby reminisces about family and finds his comfort in the sweetness and sorrow of country music. Never do we hear much from him about Jo's mother, Rosalie, once she disappears from their lives. It's Jo who will deal with the disappearance in a most unexpected manner later in the novel.

Jo is a people-watcher and immediately links to a young country singer, Cosima, with whom she later develops a sister-like relationship that really hints of the yearnings of a child for a mother. It is Cosima who initially helps Jo cope with the "departure" of Bobby, but what emerges over time becomes a hatred imploding and threatening to become murderous.

Jo will eventually come to grips with her personal demons, but that's not the focus of this artistic work of fiction. Albyn Leah Hall is a literary artist who knows how to get under the character's surface appearance and reveal the "whole" personality with all of its grace, grit, and ambiguity. The reader is compelled to follow these characters despite likes or dislikes. They are so fascinating because they possess the qualities of "everyman," - you and me!

In the beginning of the novel, one of the characters is reading a book about culture. It is the revelation of what really drives culture that is also the brilliant subplot threading through the rhythm of this novel. Art's motives and visions run deep through the hearts and minds of musicians, again touching the reader because of the empathy in the experience.

Enchanting! A writer very much worth watching now and in the future!

Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on January 23, 2007
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This book grabbed my attention Jan. 10 2007
By Armchair Interviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The Rhythm of the Road is an engrossing story about Jo, daughter of a truck driver, and her fanatical fixation on an up-and-coming country singer, Cosima. It is a story of what happens when a fan crosses the line, becoming so obsessed that she discards everything and everyone that grounded her in reality.

Jo believes Cosima will love and appreciate her undying admiration. Yet is through the song lyrics that Jo is brought to the precipice of insanity, believing Cosima speaks to her about longing, pain, love.

Jo's father, Bobby, a single parent who suffers from bouts of depression, raised Jo from birth--until he disappears. Author Albyn Leah Hall pulls aside the curtain for us to glimpse into the world of Bobby and Jo's mother, Rosalie. I felt a tenderness for these two characters as the author unveils how they are trying to do the best they can, without focusing on their flaws. As Jo searches for love and the need to belong, she finds herself in dangerous exploits that further add to her insanity, culminating into an unpredictable outcome.

I could not put this book down as my heart clutched with concern for Jo as she sought out the meaning of friendship and life. This was one of the best book s I have read in a long time and would recommend it highly.

Armchair Interviews says: Characters you really connect with.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a gripping journey Jan. 18 2007
By R. Hyams - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This taut, suspenseful novel is about many things, among them country music. It's also about travelling, as its title suggests, and about the bewildered search for a sense of place and identity. You could distil all this by saying that it's about loneliness; which brings us back to country music.

Country music links and divides the anti-heroine, Josephine, and the object of her obsession, Cosima. More, it links and divides American and British culture, and Albyn Leah Hall delineates these similarities and differences with a vividness I've never seen before.

There are three main characters in The Rhythm of the Road, but Josephine's the protagonist; and Hall uses her first-person narrative to allow us into a journey that might otherwise seem melodramatic or grotesque. In fact, it's one of the book's great achievements that you never give up on Josephine, however ridiculous or sinister her behaviour.

Slipping easily from time-scale to time-scale, voice to voice without ever losing momentum, the author balances wit, horror and tenderness with equal deftness; in the end, I was moved to tears. To sum up: a page-turner, written in a clear and accessible style, that is also about important things. In other words, a real piece of American art.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exquisite Tale of Lonliness and (Be)Longing May 7 2007
By Patricia Oliansky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Albyn Hall's second novel covers the painful experiences of growing up in rather singular circumstances. Beginning with a negligent mother and hapless, though well-meaning father whose life revolves around trucking and traveling the lesser music scene, her central character - a young girl isolated by this lifestyle - negotiates relationships and forms attachments without adequate social savvy. Throughout, Hall provides fully-formed participants in a gripping plot which takes her heroine from childhood into young adulthood, from England to America and from misery into a possibly hopeful future. A very insightful and beautifully written work. Highly recommended.
4.0 out of 5 stars Emotional Entanglements and Broken Hearts Aug. 11 2007
By Mel Odom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Albyn Leah Hall's book, THE RHYTHM OF THE ROAD, is a great read, but it takes a certain amount of investment on 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.

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