When her great aunt dies and the family gathers, nineteen year old Tessa finds herself tasked with taking a road trip to spread the ashes. Provided with her aunts antique caravan and a brand new truck to pull it, taking just the dog for company, she sets out to follow the prescribed trail through the places her aunt so loved. Along the way she finds herself, of course, but also her heritage and her family secrets, explores the space of being alone and the wonder of a peaceful life on the road. Ultimately what started as a chore nobody else would take on reveals itself to be a gift her aunt has left her in a myriad of ways.
This is an excellent piece of writing. The descriptions are full and sensuous, bringing the reader to the scene with a sense of wonderment for the beauty of the landscape and clearly showing the authors deep love of nature and appreciation of the old ways. Tessa’s ethnicity is not specified but her connection to the land is strong and forms a solid thread throughout the story.
Tessa is an interesting character. She isn’t filled out in great detail and takes a long time to emerge, patience is required, but as her character unfolds it is clear both because of her own story, and who she is, why she is sketched in so slowly. And yet despite that slow emergence she is a person of joy and lightness, she fills the pages with youthful enthusiasm despite the heavy darkness that has surrounded her and the threats she faces along the journey.
This is a classic American road trip, with challenges and failures, highs and lows. As well as a journey of self development it is also very strongly a tale of an emerging adult, finding herself partly in the land around her, partly in the solitude, and partly from learning about her aunt and the people she meets along the way. Chris Convissor’s sparse writing style elegantly reveals several lives in one intertwined tale, as she explores Tessa’s father and mother, her aunt and her friends.
Overall an intriguing read, it kept me glued to the pages as the author balanced teenage angst, fear of failure and joy for living with the exploration of dark family secrets and emerging adulthood. The editing lets the book down which is a shame, as the writing is beautiful and flows with a well rounded style that shows amazing craft for a debut novel.
I would recommend it, a thoughtful and engaging read.
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(publisher review copy received)
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