RUSH HOME ROAD
Certain novels recall fairy tales. Their heroes are banished, repeatedly challenged, until finally, foes vanquished, they make their triumphant homecoming. Though it opens in 1978 in a Chatham, Ontario, trailer park, Lansens's poignant debut is just such a novel. At its heart is Adelaide Shadd, a 70-year-old black woman who takes in five-year-old Sharla Cody when Sharla's "white trash" mother abandons her. As Addy turns Sharla from a malnourished, heedless child into a healthy, thoughtful girl, she recollects her own past. Addy grew up in Rusholme, a fictional cousin to the many Ontario communities founded by fugitive slaves brought north by the Underground Railroad. By 1908, when Addy is born, Rusholme is settled almost entirely by black farmers and is close to idyllic. But a rape and subsequent pregnancy force Addy to run away from Rusholme (she thinks of it as a command: "Rush home"), not to return for many years. Addy's life—her marriage, her children, her journey to Detroit and back to Canada—is the rich core of a novel also laden with history: Lansens manages to work in not only the Railroad, but also Prohibition and the Pullman porter movement. This is artfully done, but Lansens doesn't handle the novel's smaller scenes quite as well: she tends to drop narrative threads and confuse chronology. Some readers will resent the repeated plucking of their heartstrings, too, given how much Addy and Sharla suffer. Nonetheless, Lansens has created in Addy a truly noble character, not for what she suffered in the past but for what she does in the novel's present. (May 1)
Forecast:This is resolutely women's fiction, as jacket copy comparisons to White Oleander and She's Come Undone underscore. Though it lacks the finesse of either of those two novels, the well-drawn portrait of Addy will capture and hold readers' attention and could make the book a popular reading group choice. Time Warner Audio; foreign rights sold in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the U.K.
Release date: 05/01/2002