Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Do All Roads Lead To Home?

All roads lead to Rome, or so I'm told. But perhaps they lead to different Romes, to imagined destinations where all is revealed. The thought had me wondering if all novels somehow incorporate roads, or paths at least. Though the first one I read last week has a whole long list of very real roads, criss-crossing the States and leading, inevitably, home.

Asphalt Asylum by Steve Theme chronicles a hitchhiking trip from Washington to Florida and back, and is probably memoir rather than novel - which means it really shouldn't be my sort of thing, but I loved it. The author lyrically recreates the scenery for the readers, then invites us into the lives of some fascinating drivers, ranging from generous to scary. It's the kindness of strangers (and sometimes, maybe, their prayers) that protects him, and the loser wins and finds himself. A very cool narrative, best enjoyed with some well-balanced, full-flavored three-star coffee.

Cast A Road Before Me by Brandilyn Collins is more about the trip not taken, as a young woman, orphaned in her teens, plans to take that trip back to her hometown and pick up where her mother left off. Meanwhile the aunt and uncle in the small town that sheltered her have other ideas for her future, as does the young man who works in the same mill as her uncle. But trouble is brewing between management and employees, and 1960s America is evocatively portrayed in this gently Christian romance. Enjoy with some more well-balanced full-flavored three-star coffee.

The Ice Twins by S. K. Tremayne begins with a journey from London to Skye, while its protagonists seek a way "home" after the death of a child. It's a haunting read, sometimes scary, sometimes sad, and always mysterious. The scenery's evocative and the characters are flawed and real, though I wished they'd take better care of their children. Mysterious and dark, this one's best read with some dark five-star coffee.

Then there's Slave Again by Alana Terry, in which various side characters embark on a journey from China to North Korea, while a frightened girl and wounded young woman are sold into slavery as they travel in the opposite direction. The stories are tied together with the involvement of some seriously flawed Christian missionaries, and the author offers a brutally honest look at God's work through flawed characters. It's a long slow story, dark and honest, best enjoyed with another dark five-star coffee.

That first book, Asphalt Asylum, has as its subtitle, the Dark Roads to Light. Perhaps that describes all four of these books. And maybe all roads lead to light, rather than Rome, at least in the sort of books that don't leave readers totally depressed.

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