Solace of the Road

Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd

Holly was now placed with a family of her own after years in a residential home for teens.  Fiona and Ray seemed to want her, but it might turn out the same as the last place where she was sent back.  Best that she leave on her own terms and head to find her mother in Ireland where she was waiting.  Holly dons a blonde wig that makes her look much older than her 15 years and calls herself Solace.  From London, she hitchhikes her way across Britain.  On the way, she meets kindness in surprising places and finds out more about herself and her past. 

There is magic in Dowd’s writing, filled with crystalline moments and complexity and no simple answers.  This road-trip novel has the essential ingredient of slow progression in self-awareness.  Holly is a complicated character, filled with bravado, anger and confusion.  She is portrayed with so many layers, that just discovering her is a joy.  Holly’s use of an alter ego to understand herself is drawn with caring and a supreme gentleness.  There are moments of stillness in the novel where insight is just around the corner, but then life intervenes and the reader must wait patiently for the next moment to come. 

Dowd uses the setting as almost its own character in the novel.  Readers who have never been to Britain will still find themselves picturing it clearly in their head, hearing the birds, visiting the dark towns. 

This is a beauty of a character sketch created by a gifted author whose career ended way too early.  Highly recommended for fans of problem novels, this book will stun with the quality of the writing.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by Abby (the) Librarian and Crossover.