Saturday, January 7, 2012
Road to Thunder Hill by Connie Barnes Rose
I recently heard a novelist declare that a great novel achieves three criteria: It's unputdownable, it's unforgettable, and it's timeless. Seeing as only future generations can attest to whether a novel attains the third criteria, I'll concern myself with the first two, which seem valid enough, if not to determine a novel's greatness, than at least as to whether it's worth recommending. By this standard Road to Thunder Hill by Connie Barnes Rose more than succeeds. There are many ways to fashion an unputdownable, unforgettable story. Barnes Rose does it by creating a setting and characters that are so deeply authenticate, honest and affecting it is hard to imagine they aren't as real and present as the folks living next door. The story is told by Trish Kyle, forty-something and at a crossroads in her twenty-year marriage to Ray who spends his weeks working several hours away in salt mines. A freak April snowstorm hits, blocking roads and knocking out power, which exacerbates Trish's loneliness and fragile state of mind. The storm that rages outside is nothing compared to the one wreaking havoc in her heart. Trish is convinced that Ray is having an affair and she's at her wit's end. On Thunder Hill, seeking refuge has always been a way of life for its inhabitants, whether it be in the arms of friends, family, lovers, or escaping in booze and narcotics. Trish has done it all, particularly the latter. Now she has strong memories and emotions to contend with, including an attraction to rugged Bear James, Thunder Hill's 'failed hermit' and Ray's best friend, and resentment toward her alleged half-sister Olive, who now lives in her childhood home and is apparently bent on making Trish feel inferior. When the refugees all find themselves around Olive's kitchen table to ride out the remainder of the uncertain weather, the question Barnes Rose beautifully conveys is when and how - it's never really a question of 'if' - love and forgiveness will finally emerge on Thunder Hill, like the first crocuses of spring.