Ah, adolescence, that clamoring cacophony of hormones and emotions, a state of being and of mind that many a writer has tried and failed to conquer with words. Its intangibility defies description, abhors analogy, detests any attempt at definition…and yet, some writers truly succeed at capturing that delicate transition to adulthood without succumbing to the smarmy, and newcomer Hall is one of them. Her teenage anti-heroine, Josephine Pickering, narrates a vivid tale of emotional degeneration accented by the persistent woebegone twang of country music; the result is a strangely beautiful portrait of a young woman’s struggle with self-identity.
I ain’t the kind of girl
To sit around all day
Waiting for a boy to pick me up
In some old Chevrolet…
I got wheels of my own and I’m never at home
And I live my life on the road.
Jo is an anchorless sidekick to her trucker father, content to ride the rolling hills of Britain right through to the end of her days without school or boys or, more importantly, her American mother. She and her Bobby were carefree, ensconced in the cab of their Scania, singing Johnny Cash and eating anything deep-fried; it’s not until they pick up a young American hitchhiker, future country star Cosima Stewart, that things start to fall apart, that the euphoric and insidious tentacles of idolatry begin to unravel Jo’s entire way of looking at the world. She becomes desperate for that elusive fulfillment borne by feeling pretty, by being wanted, and unconsciously pushes her father away. Then, with his sudden disappearance, she is left only with her obsession for the band to carry her through the days ahead.
Despite the wrenching circumstances in which Jo devolves into an addict trapped in a cycle of sex, drugs, and violence, Hall manages to retain compassion for her character, etching hints of brightness into scenes that would ordinarily seem relentlessly bleak. Rhythm of the Road has a refreshing, almost blunt artistry about it, and if Hall can continue to create characters who can carry that weight, she should have a long career ahead of her.