"I still don't know why you're doing this, Yates."
"It's payback time, Andy."
These quotes from MOTHER ROAD, which appear near the end of the
first chapter, sum up the motivation behind future action taken by
its protagonist, known simply as Yates. Much of Dorothy Garlock's
book deals with question marks about his past. But Yates admits his
reason for staying in Sayre, Oklahoma during the depression era: to
help Andy Connors's family. Andy has been bitten by a rabid skunk
and must undergo treatment in Oklahoma City for four to six
Leona Dawson, Andy's sister-in-law, cares for his two young
daughters after the death of their mother, her sister. She refuses
to marry Andy to stop tongues wagging in the rural community. There
is mutual "like" between the two but not the type of love found in
a marriage. Leona comes with baggage from her past in the form of
an extreme fundamentalist Christian brother, Virgil. He is the
epitome of an evil antagonist and depends on Sheriff's Deputy Wayne
Ham to back him up in his quest to remove the two little girls from
Leona's care at Andy's.
Andy's garage and gas station is the center of action in MOTHER
ROAD. Its location is on the famous Route 66 central highway across
the southwest to California. Garlock gives an accurate picture of
life in the dustbowl days of Oklahoma. She imparts a sense of
danger when evildoers work to shatter peace and quiet in a small
town, changing when the new highway segment opens. Bootleggers and
highwaymen threaten serenity, but MOTHER ROAD's most serious
trouble comes from town and family bigotry.
Leona and Yates begin their acquaintance with misconceptions. To
him, she is a plain girl, brimming with spit and vinegar. She's
tough when confronted and gentle with Andy's girls. For her, Yates
is a mysterious stranger who has invaded their lives and is her
object of contention. Much of her fear is rooted in her distrust.
Garlock uses a volume of words to illustrate Leona's feelings. At
times, the fear factor and insecurity overshadow the romance.
Virgil's self-righteous personality looms as a constant threat to
the family. His own wife and children are objects of his brutality.
When diphtheria strikes his son, Virgil sees it as God's will. A
subplot unfolds when his anger affects the entire community. Yates
comes to terms with denials stemming from his background before the
story's end. Major characters confront their demons and accept
changes in their lives.
MOTHER ROAD is a colorful personalization of a highway and the
people who work and play along its byways. Garlock captures the
work ethic and spirit of Americans during the Depression years with
understanding. MOTHER ROAD is a novel of tribute to the common men
and women of that era.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 22, 2011