The Rhythm of the Road, by Albyn Leah Hall

Albyn Leah Hall is an author to watch, but nobody would describe her as being remotely Wordcandy-friendly. Her book The Rhythm of the Road is full of familiar images from country music: missing family members, the open road, broken hearts. Unfortunately, like a lot of country music, Hall's novel feels like a string of gloomy images, lacking a compelling connecting story.

Hall's book shifts between teenager Jo's perspective and the story of her parents, Bobby and Rosalie. In the earlier storyline, Bobby, a sweet, sad Irish truck driver, and Rosalie, an American Jewish girl indulging her wild side in 1980s England, drift into a relationship. Jo's story picks up in her teens. Rosalie disappeared immediately after giving birth, leaving Bobby to raise their daughter. Their peaceful, country music-filled existence begins to fall apart when Bobby picks up a hitchhiker from Texas, aspiring country singer Cosima Stewart. Over the next few years, Jo and her father have periodic run-ins with Cosima, and each time their life seems to disintegrate a little bit more.

The Rhythm of the Road shows flashes of real talent. Hall has an elegant, lyrical style and a great ear for dialogue. I loved this description of a ridiculously pretentious Goth musician:

Even offstage he spoke in lyrics rather than whole sentences, lyrics so inscrutable that Rosalie was sure they were incredibly clever.

"You can't enter the same river once," he said to her once, and she thought about it for a very long time.

Unfortunately, amusingly nasty moments like these are lost amongst the breathless descriptions of Jo's soap opera-worthy troubles. Hall seems to have a boundless imagination for unfortunate events. Not content to saddle Jo with a missing mother and a depressed father, The Rhythm of the Road piles on drug and alcohol abuse, disturbing sexual relationships, and Fatal Attraction-style obsession.

Hall is tough on her characters, and seems more enthusiastic about describing their suffering than she is about their eventual redemption. It's possible, of course, to write a great book featuring profoundly messed-up characters and a depressing ending, but it's a tall order for a beginning novelist, and The Rhythm of the Road falls short of the task.
Posted by: Julianka


22 Jan, 2007 07:05 PM @ version 0

Eh, I don't mind a good angst-fest once in a while, and I have some giftcards burning a hole in my pocket, so maybe I'll pick this up anyway.

No new comments are allowed on this post.