It is 1986. Erica Richards lives in West Meadow, Long Island with their three young boys, newborn baby girl, and successful Wall Street analyst husband. But don’t be fooled by her seemingly placid suburban lifestyle. Erica is fierce, curious, uncompromising and often impulsive. When her teenage nephew Jared rebels against his straight-laced parents Ron and Debbie, he turns to Erica for help, setting in motion a chain of events that will take all of them careening down a dangerous and twisty highway. Buckle your seatbelt, crank up the 80s soundtrack, and learn how stunningly easy it is to keep BIG SECRETS.
Title: Wrong Highway
Author: Wendy Gordon
Genre: Fiction | Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Shepherdess Press
Published: June 15, 2016
Format: Paperback, 390 pages
FTC Disclaimer: I received a copy of Wrong Highway from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review. Opinions expressed are mine.
With a synopsis like the one above, I was ready to sit back and enjoy a reflective read set in the 1980s, a decade of great music and the birth of many of today’s ills. It included the year I married the love of my life and moved from the South to the Pacific Northwest. All good things.
Initially, the characters all bothered me and I’m not sure which one bothered me the most:
- Erica, the sister trying to help her sister with her adolescent son’s rebellious nature and behavior by joining him in getting high on whatever he has available. With no acknowledgment of her problems, Erica slips down the slippery slope of expensive drug addictions while continuing her daily routine of hauling her precious children around as she goes to exercise class and then off to buy her drugs.
- Erica’s sister, the rule following, everything is perfect Debbie can’t and won’t acknowledge her son’s problems as real nor that she and the son, Jared, are living under the roof with an abusive and highly temperamental husband and father.
- Erica’s husband has no awareness of anything but himself and his job which is about to tank. He travels often leaving Erica to delve into the world of drugs and strange characters with his children in tow.
Gordon uses Erica to show us the glittering, wealthy, money driven culture of the drug world of the 1980s. She has drawn an accurate picture of the lure of the drug culture. Erica is basically bored to death and lives a mundane existence as the mother of four young children. Gordon’s development of Erica and her descent into the darkness of drug dealers and the places she has to go to pick up her drug of choice is electric while also being depressive.
Gordon receives credit for being an excellent writer and bringing to the page the reality of her characters. However, this book left me wishing she had done more to bring closure for her characters at the ending. Little redemption occurs for these sad and disheartened people, and I kept hoping for more for each of them. I really wanted to enjoy this book, but nothing about it could be called enjoyable. It was too dark with characters drawing teenagers into dangerous situations as well as small children being put somewhat in harm’s way as a mother takes chances to carry out her own desires.
As a debut novel, I expected more polish and a sense of totality within the story arc building into a climax bringing these characters into a better place.
Wendy Gordon grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and has lived in Boston, Chicago, and New York before finding her true home on the West Coast. She received a B.S. from Simmons College in Boston and an M.S. from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. She has been a journalist for over twenty-five years, publishing in newspapers, magazines, and electronic formats. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and children. This is her first book.
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