My first book involves more cheerful roads: The Road to Oz by L. Frank Baum (1909). In this fifth Oz book, Dorothy and Toto (back in Kansas) meet the Shaggy Man, who asks them to point out the road to Butterfield. When the road splits into seven different paths, they take the seventh and have various adventures before arriving in Oz. Of course, nowadays Aunt Em would be very concerned about Dorothy talking to a stranger who looks like a tramp, let alone heading off into the sunset with him! My great-grandfather read the first fourteen Oz books to his children and I believe our copy of this book was the first edition.
My second book, far from Dorothy Gale’s Kansas but another place from which people yearn to escape – to Paris, if not Oz – is Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (1961). It was a novel about unhappy suburban life in Connecticut that was mentioned a lot during the popularity of Mad Men, which I enjoyed. I persuaded my book group to read it in 2014 but I found it very depressing. Revolutionary Road is the name of their street which protagonist Frank describes as a whole bunch of cute little winding roads and cute little houses painted white and pink and baby blue, and residents ignore what they don’t want to see (their failing marriages and other challenges of the 60s, presumably).
The Road Home by Ellen Emerson White (1995) is my third book. It is the fifth book in the Echo Company series (the first four were originally published under a pseudonym when I was a Scholastic sales rep – little did I realize I would one day run into the author at my NYPL branch) about a young soldier in Vietnam and the nurse who meets him there. When Rebecca returns home, she is seriously depressed and snarls at everyone in sight until she road trips to find Michael, and it turns out that her road home is not with her family but with someone who went through the same trauma she did. Unlike Revolutionary Road, which I had high hopes for but felt like unadulterated gloom, this book also takes on serious issues but is very funny.
Down a Dark Road by Linda Castillo (2017), could refer to the choices made by the convicted killer whose escape from prison triggers a hostage situation or to Kate’s dilemma when he asks her to prove his innocence or to the actions of others who do not want her to solve this case. This is the ninth in a crime series featuring formerly-Amish Chief of Police Kate Burkholder, a woman of many secrets in fictional small-town Painters Mill, Ohio. I recommend you begin with book 1, Sworn to Silence.
The Road to Ruin by Margaret Evans Porter (1990), which was autographed by the author, the road refers to disgrace! Georgette Heyer fans will enjoy this regency in which Dominic Blythe, fleeing London after being falsely accused of murder, hides his face from the constable by kissing a stranger he encounters at an inn. Soon she has agreed to help him out by pretending to be his wife.
The ghost of a smile flickered across his pale face. “True, but I mean no harm, neither to your person nor your property.”
“That’s all very well,” she retorted, “But you’ve already destroyed something less tangible, but no less valuable – my reputation!”84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, about her correspondence from New York with a London bookseller, made into a very good movie with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins in 1987. Some of you have heard the story about my meeting Helene and inviting her to my book group’s fifth anniversary celebration, which was a memorable encounter.
I hope you liked my road theme! For next month, Kate chose Sally Rooney’s recently published Normal People as our starting point.