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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; First Edition edition (Jan. 9 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312359446
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312359447
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 16.1 x 23.5 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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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
"...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. 11 2007
By Armchair Interviews - Published on Amazon.com
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. 19 2007
By R. Hyams - Published on Amazon.com
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
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars poignant reading Oct. 8 2007
By Elizabeth Byrd - Published on Amazon.com
The Rhythm of the Road is a poignant read. Jo is a heart breaking character who is so full of life and emotion and a need to be loved. Albyn Leah Hall truly captures the angst of young womanhood! At the same, her depictions of "life on the road" particularly in the UK are engrossing. I couldn't put this book down and look forward to more writing by this author!

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