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Thursday, December 29, 2011

solace of the road, written by Siobhan Dowd. David Fickling Books, Random House. 2009. $9.99 ages 12 and up

"The man had long grey hair tied in a ponytail and thick brown arms. He had blue jeans and a T-shirt on and was whistling to a tune he could hear on his earphones. He was what I call a mogit in denial - somebody who's over forty, and acts like they're seventeen. You want to cringe and hide when they act like your best buddy, like they think they're still your age."

She has a powerful voice that Holly becomes even more powerful when she takes on the persona of Solace. Holly is a fourteen year old and we meet her in the care home where she is presently living. Her influences there are not always good. She does have a favorite care worker; but, he is leaving for another job. He feels her best chance of making her life better is to take a foster spot with a concerned and willing couple.

Fiona and Ray are good to her. She has her own room, good food, attention from her foster parents. But, she doesn't have her mom and she believes that finding her will be the answer to an even better life. She must get to Ireland. To that end, she takes Fiona's blond wig knowing it will make her look older than she is, and she becomes Solace.  Off she goes, with what she can carry and a vision of a happy life with Mam.

In her quest to find the A40 and a direct route to her mother, she meets a group of characters who affect her present and will influence her future. Holly is smart enough to plot her course, and innocent enough to think that it will be easy. Walking to Ireland....really? As Solace, she has confidence and is able to take risks that Holly might not. She speaks with people more easily, recalls the advice of her mates in the care home and finds ways to move forward with her plan.

I have to admit that I read her story with trepidation, always imagining something evil around each corner. She takes rides with strangers, meets some interesting and caring people. Suffice it to say that she handles each new development as best she can. While it is all very dangerous, she uses all of her skills to find the way. Through the kindness of strangers and her own ingenuity, she makes it to Ireland, only to find that Mam is not there waiting for her:

"You can't think all you memories at once or your head will burst. So you put them in a drawer in the back of your brain and close them away. Denny and Mam, that day in the sky house, they'd been hidden away for years. And I'd forgotten how the pieces fitted together. I'd fooled myself how it was all Denny's fault and how Mam had to run away from him to Ireland and how she was waiting for me to find her there."

The ending holds surprise, and grace. It is a journey that has worth and value to Holly:

"Other times I tell her (the therapist) about everyone I met on my travels. I show her the map and describe the good people on it who were like guardian angels because they did something to help me and asked for nothing back."

I think that is the way it generally is, and it is lovely to read a teen novel that shows the goodness that is alive in the world. Rest in peace, Siobhan Dowd. Your legacy is rich.

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