cover image King of the Road

King of the Road

Paul Hemphill / Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $18.45

This odyssey of long-haul trucking on the open highway is also a probing study of a complex father-son relationship. Jane Hawkins, 69, retired trucker from Birmingham, Ala., hasn't driven a big rig in three years. Proud, defiant Jake is an alcoholic, a hustler, a raconteur, full of shenanigans and memories of a better America. His son, Sonny, college lecturer in English Lit and frustrated novelist, is furious at his sister Phyllis for whisking their dad away to an alcoholic recovery center. Family tensions run high: Sonny hates Phyllis's smug blue-blooded Yankee husband, a wife-beater, while Mom, who has Alzheimer's disease, can't remember who's who. When Jake decides to take his 18-wheel rig, Dixie Redball, on one last ride, hauling cargo to Nevada, Jake joins him, believing he can rescue dad from himself and, in the process, draw closer to the old man. Their long, lonesome ride, marked by humorous touches, ends with a shocking finale. Hemphill ( Long Gone ) casts a satirical eye on the ``New South.'' Author tour. (Oct.)