Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Solace of the Road, by Siobhan Dowd
The late Siobhan Dowd's final novel features Holly, a girl who decides to run away on her 15th birthday from her foster parents to find her mother. In logic that makes more sense to a lonely teen, Holly is convinced that her mother, who abandoned her years ago, is waiting for her in Ireland. Emboldened by a blonde wig she has stolen from her foster mother, Holly christens herself as "Solace" -- an older and wiser version of herself. She hitchhikes across western England and Wales, managing to reach the coast, but not without struggles (both material and mental, in both present and past).
As an adventure story, the young girl's mishaps will annoy some readers, but come across true to her age. She is both very brave and very foolish, weak but ultimately strong enough to pull herself back from the brink. While she makes her fair share of mistakes, she makes enough good decisions to survive the trip. Far more important, however, is the emotional journey that Holly takes as Solace. While ultimately predictable, the story is affirming and rewarding, and delivers a proper emotional payoff. In my opinion, a bit more ambitious than The London Eye Mystery and more interesting than A Swift Pure Cry. Worthy reading.