by Lori Lansens – Such a good book! Set in both the 1930s and the 1990s, this rich literary novel tells the story of Addy Shadd, a black woman in the Great Lakes region of Canada and the U.S., starting with the violent disruption of her nearly idyllic life as a teenager in Rusholme. Rusholme was the end of a line on the Underground Railroad and had become one of the few places where blacks owned property and lived outside most of the prejudice and discrimination of the pre-civil-rights era. A pregnant Addy is forced out of her home at 15 years of age and has to make her way in a world that is at best unsympathetic to her plight.
As an old woman, Addy takes in Sharla Cody, a biracial 5-year-old neighbor whose mother abandons the girl in the trailer park where they all live. Sharla’s life has included little discipline, little love and little happiness. Their life together isn’t smooth, and the world is no more sympathetic than when Addy was young, but they find in each other a measure of solace.
Rush Home Road is rich and evocative, with details that bring to life two worlds that I had never imagined. Lansens uses language like a painter, drawing and coloring her Addy and Sharla vividly, lovingly, but with little sentimentality. They become real people, damaged and resigned to make the best of their situations, however precarious they know them to be.
I don’t know quite how Lansens was able to get into the minds of two people so different from her (and from me), but she did… and she got into my heart at the same time. (finished 5/2/2012)