Because he thought I would be interested in reviewing it, Scott Wyatt, an author of contemporary fiction, sent me a copy of a new title called “Thompson Road.” The reasons he thought it was fitting for LD Blog will become clear as I describe the story.
Thompson Road follows adolescents who grow into adulthood in the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s-40s-50s. Mr.’s Wyatt’s choice of this time allows him to highlight many important ideas that touch on how people personally view learning disabilities (LD) and on issues about public policy in disabilities. But that’s not what Thompson Road is really about.
Mr. Wyatt weaves his story about Mona, an adolescent girl who is still stuck in elementatry school because she has trouble with reading and writing, and Raleigh, Mona’s neighbor along the rural road that gives the novel its name and who is a popular prepster. Early in the story, after he can’t land a high school hottie he’d hoped to have dance with him in the state dance festival and after he’s run his car into a ditch near Mona’s house when he’s consumed way too much whiskey, Raliegh spies Mona dancing beautifully to contemporary music. Raleigh hatches an adolescent plan to partner with Mona to win the state dance festival and get back at the other girl. For both of them, however, it’s the start of something more substantial, but other events get in the way.
Without spoiling what happens—and there are a raft of mistakes (e.g., misdiagnosis), world events (e.g., World War II takes Raleigh away), as well as miscommunications (some of which fit with LD) that intervene—things take many twists and turns in this story. As Mona’s life is affected by the decisions others make for her, Raleigh experiences the events of the times. He goes away to war, works on auto engines, smokes unfiltered cigarettes, fathers a child and marries, and more, all while still thinking of Mona. It’s intriguing, as Mr. Wyatt incorporates other social issues (e.g., false accusations) into this story. The story is rich—it includes plenty of detail about settings, legal matters, and automobile and aircraft engines, for example—even though it’s written simply and clearly.
Parents might have difficulty with Thompson Road as a work of fiction for young adults. Some would object to words characters sometimes use and to scenes portraying infidelity. However, the clarity of the portrayal and the ebb and flow of the story, especially given that it is set in a different era, make it one that would allow young readers to think about the topics and their implications for today.
Readers who are searching for insights about LD will find few here. To be sure, there is a theme about valuing people who have a disability, rather than patronizing them and deciding what’s best for them. But Thompson Road doesn’t provide teaching how-to guidance or describe a technology that suddenly transforms Mona’s world. This is a novel, and it tells a story, a love story. Enjoy it for that, for what it is.
Disclosure: I got a free PDF of the book to read for this review. Nothing more—JohnL.