I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Buckle Up! Jennifer's AlLee's The Mother Road

(To set the mood, enjoy the swinging sounds of Bobby Troupe while you read!)

Fasten your seatbelt and settle in for a journey full of laughter, heartbreak, and hope in Jennifer Allee’s The Mother Road—a road-trip novel I loved so much I took it everywhere with me. Including, of course, the car, where it made excellent reading on an overnight trip.

Natalie Marino’s life is enviably perfect. Despite her struggle with infertility, she’s had a successful life:  handsome hubby, nice home in Southern California, and an amazing career writing Christian romance and speaking to women on marriage.

So when her husband demands a divorce so he can marry his pregnant mistress, the betrayal costs Natalie her marriage, her hopes for the future, and her credibility. She’s still in shock when her father delivers more bad news: Natalie’s mom, who’s stricken with Alzheimer’s, has taken a turn for the worse. Natalie and her estranged sister Lindsay must return to Illinois to visit their parents before their mother forgets who they are.

Wigwam Motel, Holbrook Arizona
Lindsay is reluctant, and, adding salt to Natalie’s wounds, pregnant. But their mother is ailing, and the sparring sisters need to see her, fast. Flying to Illinois is out of the question for Lindsay. That leaves an old-fashioned car trip on The Mother Road, old Route 66—the historic two lane highway that, for decades, ran from the Santa Monica pier in Los Angeles to Chicago.

The road trip is bumpy in every sense of the word, chock full of quirky pit stops, emotional hairpin turns, and speed as the sisters endure heavy pursuit by Lindsay’s stalking ex-boyfriend, Ben. As the sisters drive toward the unknown, things start to change for Natalie—in her relationship with Lindsay, and within her heart. Only God can get her to Illinois without losing it, but maybe He has other plans for her once she gets there.

The Mother Road is a road-trip book at its best, with engaging scenery, witty banter, and an end-of-road destination that may not be what the protagonist first expects. The characters are multi-layered and their experiences are familiar to most readers. Every woman who longs for motherhood can relate to Natalie's grief over her empty arms, and my heart ached for her. I also appreciated how she grows throughout the story. Natalie may be a relationship expert, but she isn't the most attentive daughter, and she has a way of ignoring her problems until they're too large to deny.

In other words, Jennifer Allee's characters act like real people. Sometimes it seems like Christian characters say everything right, but that's a trait most of us won't be able to claim this side of heaven. In times of stress, Natalie sometimes speaks without thinking, and her quips occasionally worsen a situation. The way humans respond to each other in this story, with grace and also judgment, reveals a lot about how Christians should strive to be with one another, but often fall short.

Disappointment, betrayal, and a devastating disease are handled with moving realism—there are no easy answers here—but the story isn’t bogged down in grief. I love how Jennifer Allee writes with shades of light and dark, realism and humor, and she made me laugh out loud several times. Her style is engaging and engrossing, and I’ve been waiting for The Mother Road for a long time.

It was a journey I’m glad I took.

This post originally appeared on Inkwell Inspirations.

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