Siobahn Dowd's Solace of the Road
Book review by Rosalyne Bowmile
Fighting back; a story of resilience
Holly Hogan is dripping with attitude. Nearly fifteen she is often times rude, rebellious and guarded, but beneath the bad girl image is a child, one who is alone and scared with hopes to reunite with her mother. Until such time, Holly remains in England.
Since early childhood, Holly has lived in Templeton House, a social service home for children and teens. She still carries with her the jaded images of her first home; Sky House a place where she lived with her mother and her boyfriend Denny. He was cruel and mean. Holly will forever blame Denny for ruining her life. His nastiness chased her mother away, forcing her to flee to Ireland, leaving Holly abandoned and alone.
Holly's sure her mother’s waiting for her return, and one day they’ll be a family again. This dream keeps Holly fighting, giving her the hope to push through each day that soon in the future they’ll be together again. Holly never considers the possibility of anything else, having suppressed deep within her memory the truth.
The nearest people in Holly’s life are those who live in Templeton House, her two friends Grace and Trim, each with their own issues and dreams. Most important to Holly is Miko, her key support worker. He is helpful and understanding, giving her coping skills to handle her moods and feelings of aggression. He is the one hold that has kept her from leaving.
Holly’s world derails once again, now shifting in a new direction. News of a placement in foster care doesn’t excite her, but the alternative of staying in Templeton House without Miko is worse. Holly feels emptiness, a lack of belonging, but more so abandonment by the one person she trusted. Packing up her belongings, she says a final good-bye to Grace, Trim and Miko. She sets out to begin her new life with Fiona and Ray Aldridge.
Holly (metaphorically dressed in full armor), is guarded and defensive. She refuses the hand of kindness extended to her by Fiona, and remains closed and standoffish. Trust is not something she easily shares with others, her new foster family no exception.
Alone in the house Holly discovers a blonde wig, one that Fiona discarded, a reminder of a time she never wishes to live through again. Holly tries on the wig. She is shocked to see the transformation. Gone is the brown- haired girl of fourteen, now replaced by a young woman, her alter ego, Solace, who oozes with confidence. The wig gives Holly the edge she’s been waiting for, her freedom now just around the corner.
Holly plans her escape. Now on the run, she reminds herself she’s Solace, a young woman, confident, and never to look back. Soon she’ll be reacquainted with her mother, her dream finally becoming a reality. Holly doesn’t expect nor is she prepared for the flood of deep-rooted memories she’s suppressed for years to surface. The closer she gets to Ireland, the more clear a memory she has of her childhood, visions that are very different than the ones she’s kept alive for so many years.
Holly is a survivor, a child who has learned how to fend for herself, and relies on few people in her life. Like all children, she wants to be loved, protected and feel the security of belonging.
Siobhan Dowd was a courageous writer. She didn’t soft step, or brush aside a painful issue, instead hit it head on, making the reader sit up and listen. Solace of the Road was not an easy read, especially as a parent of two kids. It shook me, but also had me cheering for Holly, a child who eventually faced her worst nightmare and learned to overcome obstacles that stood in her way. Holly was resilient, brave and a hero.
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