On the day that I’m publishing my Books of the Year list for 2017 – coming soon! – it seems wholly appropriate to be publishing my review of a book that’s already secured its place on my list for next year. I was thoroughly delighted when I was invited to be an early reader of The Road to California by Louise Walters, to be published by Louise Walters Books in the new year – 1st January for the kindle version, 1st March for the paperback, and available for pre-order.
Proud single parent Joanna is accustomed to school phoning to tell her that her fourteen year old son Ryan is in trouble. But when Ryan hits a girl and is excluded from school, Joanna knows she must take drastic action to help him.
Ryan’s dad Lex left home when Ryan was two years old. Ryan doesn’t remember him – but more than anything he wants a dad in his life. Isolated, a loner, and angry, Ryan finds solace in books and wildlife.
Joanna, against all her instincts, invites Lex to return and help their son. But Lex is a drifter who runs from commitment, and both Joanna and Ryan find their mutual trust and love is put to the test when Lex returns, and vows to be part of the family again.
You might have already guessed how I felt about this book – it’s there, on that wonderful front cover. And what a perfect cover it is (well done, Jennie Rawlings at Serifim) – the simplicity, the light checks of the quilt in the background, the birds nest with the single broken egg. And the book inside that lovely cover? Well, that’s quite perfect too – yes, achingly perfect.
A perfect book for me needs to do more than engage me, it needs to capture my heart. Ryan laid claim to mine from the opening pages – but then so did his mother Joanna, and then the wonderful Lex. The writing is just ineffably beautiful, with some scenes that will fill you with joy, some that will move you deeply, and others that will completely break you. Had anyone asked me while reading whether this book was written in the first or third person, I would have said the former (although it isn’t!) because the author so completely conveys everything Ryan thinks and feels in his own style and voice.
There’s immense sadness, but also a real emotional warmth to the whole book as it wrestles with issues of love, loss and family: the relationships between its characters are joyful and uplifting, and the touches of gentle humour are quite perfectly judged. And the ending? A little different, and it might surprise some, but I thought it was absolutely right.
Add this one to your New Year reading list now – you won’t regret it for an instant.
My thanks to Louise Walters for trusting me with my early reading copy, and for the immense honour of being quoted on the front cover of this wonderful book. In addition to the usual on-line outlets, you may like to pre-order your copy via Louise’s website – a little cheaper, free of post and packing charges, and with the option of a personal dedication.
About the author
Louise Walters is the author of Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase, published by Hodder in 2014. Her second novel, A Life Between Us, was published with Matador on 28th March, and her third, The Road to California, will be published under her own imprint, Louise Walters Books. Louise lives in Northamptonshire with her husband and five children. Find out more about Louise and her writing through her excellent website: you can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.