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Solace of the Road

Solace of the Road

4.2 8
by Siobhan Dowd

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Holly’s story will leave a lasting impression on all who travel with her.

Memories of mum are the only thing that make Holly Hogan happy. She hates her foster family with their too-nice ways and their false sympathy. And she hates her life, her stupid school, and the way everyone is always on at her. Then she finds the wig, and everything changes.


Holly’s story will leave a lasting impression on all who travel with her.

Memories of mum are the only thing that make Holly Hogan happy. She hates her foster family with their too-nice ways and their false sympathy. And she hates her life, her stupid school, and the way everyone is always on at her. Then she finds the wig, and everything changes. Wearing the long, flowing blond locks she feels transformed. She’s not Holly anymore, she’s Solace: the girl with the slinkster walk and the supersharp talk. She’s older, more confident—the kind of girl who can walk right out of her humdrum life, hitch to Ireland, and find her mum. The kind of girl who can face the world head-on.

So begins a bittersweet and sometimes hilarious journey as Solace swaggers and Holly tiptoes across England and through memory, discovering her true self and unlocking the secrets of her past.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2009:
"A last gift from Dowd."

Starred Review, Booklist, October 1, 2009:
"With rare, raw honesty, Dowd writes about the legacy of abandonment, memory's comforting tricks, and the painful, believable ways that love heals."

Publishers Weekly
Dowd’s final novel (the author died of cancer in 2007) is a compelling psychological portrait of a girl’s journey from denial to facing the facts that will let her move beyond her troubled past. Holly Hogan, 14, has been a ward of the state for most of her life. She is finally placed with foster parents Fiona and Ray, but is suspicious, unable to believe anyone would be interested in a “delinquent care-babe with a cracked up past.” Then she finds a blonde wig Fiona wore while recovering from chemotherapy, which transforms Holly’s looks—and confidence. At first opportunity, she dons the wig, renames herself “Solace” and hits the road, intent on reaching Ireland, where she thinks her mother fled nine years earlier. Considerable tension is derived from the precarious situations Holly puts herself in—hitching rides, leaving a nightclub with a stranger, hiding in the back of a wagon on a ferry—but the real tightrope she’s walking is along the slippery thread of memory. Readers will root for her to find her balance and arrive safely at the right destination. Ages 14–up. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
Gr 8–11—Holly Hogan is about to turn 15 and has been given a chance to leave her group home behind. She's being offered a foster placement, but the prospect engenders feelings and issues she hadn't expected. It means leaving Miko, her key worker (live-in case worker) and her only friends. They may be dysfunctional, but they're a part of her. She knows that things would be better in Ireland, the land of her birth. Her mam's there and it's where she needs to go. She puts on a blonde wig that her foster mother wore during cancer treatments, and she feels transformed. She can escape her circumstances by donning the wig and becoming Solace of the Road. Her journey from London to Ireland is a mix of adventure, discovery, and introspection. Gritty, touching, and real, the teen's journey takes listeners along for the ride. Siobhan Dowd's novel (David Fickling Bks., 2009) is narrated by Sile Bermingham who conveys the subtlety of British regional accents to listeners. She also brings an honesty to the voice of a girl on the edge of womanhood and self-discovery. Sometimes she is a sophisticated teen with "slim-slam hips," and at other times she is a scared and lonely little girl who has manipulated her painful memories as a way of coping with her past. The audio format makes this story even more compelling.—Genevieve Gallagher, Charlottesville High School, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Holly, a 15-year-old ward of the state, is placed with foster parents who, though they try very hard, can't break through the barrier she has constructed around herself, mostly to forget her early life with her uninterested mother. After she discovers a blond wig that seems to add years to her age, Holly hits the road, bravely reinventing herself as Solace, a young woman with an attitude. Her destination, across England and Wales, is Ireland, where her mother must surely be. Experiences along the way-a few drinks in a club, a brush with a sexually aggressive young man, a long ride with a vegan truck driver and getting locked in a van on a ferry-help her rediscover lost memories. Holly's character is fully developed and bright with a quirky humor, and even secondary characters with lightly sketched parts fly off the pages in three dimensions. Holly's insights and observations are completely plausible, as is her voyage of discovery, described in lovely, pitch-perfect language. A last gift from Dowd. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

Meet the Author

Siobhan Dowd lived in Oxford with her husband, Geoff, before tragically dying from cancer in August 2007, aged 47. She was both an extraordinary writer and an extraordinary person. Her first novel, A Swift Pure Cry, was a Book Sense Top Ten Pick and a Junior Library Guild selection. Her second novel, The London Eye Mystery, received five starred reviews.

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Solace of the Road 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Lindsey_Miller More than 1 year ago
Honestly, I'm not sure how to approach this review. I'm sad because, to my knowledge, this is Siobhan Dowd's last book. Both Bog Child and Solace of the Road have been published posthumously, and I feel that although I still have a few books of hers to read that were published prior to these two, I am already internally mourning over the loss of such a great writer. Dowd seems always able to find the perfect balance between telling the character's story in an engaging way and bringing the reader into an understanding of why the story is important, that it is more than simply a story about a person, but that there are larger elements at work, things that people should generally know about and empathize with, broaden their worldviews to understand and incorporate the messages that Dowd is so deftly communicating through her stories. Solace of the Road is no exception. At first I found myself irritated with the first person narrative of a young girl who is stricken with a difficult past and struggling with who she is and was as she begins her journey maturing into a woman. So often I wanted to reach into the story and say, "Please stop thinking this way and making these kinds of decisions. You're only going to end up hurting yourself." However, even that sentiment brought me the realization that Dowd is so masterful in her storytelling. Dowd wants us to feel that way in order to show us the story, partner with us in our reading rather than just telling us something and giving us the easy answers. She forces us to grapple with many of the same difficult aspects of life that Holly/Solace is going through. I often felt exactly the same way when reading Bog Child. Having grown up in America with two parents who loved me, I have no idea what a person in Holly's shoes is going through. Even now, I can't say that I truly know any more than I did before, but I will say that I have a stronger sense of empathy for people in Holly's position, or even Holly's mother, who often make decisions reacting to their circumstances rather than thinking things through and landing on the best possible choice. They make the best of what they have, and although they hurt others in the process, it doesn't happen without a sense of self-awareness and self-loathing they must work through. Holly is a complex character who feels very tangible. I wouldn't be too surprised if I actually met a 'Holly' one day, and she turned out to be exactly the way that Dowd has described her. I recommend this book to all readers 12+. -Lindsey Miller, www.lindseyslibrary.com
Smithmom5 More than 1 year ago
Of all the books I have read in my lifetime, this is one of the very, very best. I have never before read Dowd's work, but after reading Solace Of The Road, I intend to go out and discover all of her books. Dowd is a literary master. Her writing In Solace of the Road is gut-wrenching and healing, all in the same breath. It is the kind of novel that will leave you feeling changed. It will stay with you and charm you in ways you cannot imagine. There is no description adequate enough to give readers a feeling for what her writing is like, save that you have to read it yourself to understand. Though the subject is a difficult one which most readers don't usually seek out willingly (abandonment), don't be put off by the thought of a depressing novel; you'll be really glad that you read it, and it is equally balanced with good humor and inspiration. The young girl who is the main character is full and alive, a person who is both fallible and brave. The book tales readers through the process of beginning to know and understand this girl, and by the end, she'll become a person who you really care for. Read it!
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Life has not been exactly fair to Holly. She has grown up in a series of group and foster homes surrounded by social workers who say they care, but it certainly doesn't feel like they do. As the story begins, Holly is headed toward a new home. A childless couple arranges for a few test visits and then decide they are willing to offer Holly a place in their lives. It should be the answer to Holly's dream, but her sights are set on finding her Irish mam and not relying on the kindness of strangers. Maybe it's the constant disappointments over the years and the repeated caregivers who have abandoned Holly. Whatever the reasons, she doesn't feel that she can go through it again. After a short stay with the new couple and one heated outburst, Holly decides it's time to leave. She stumbles across a blond wig that adds several years to her own almost fifteen, and when she looks in the mirror, she reinvents herself with a new name - Solace. Solace has the courage and the calm attitude needed to strike out and find her mam. The journey takes Solace (Holly) into a world of roadside diners, truck drivers, and adventure spiced with bits of humor and potential danger. She's a girl in search of her past and, hopefully, a future filled with a promise of real family and real love. Siobhan Dowd, author of several other award-winning YA books, tragically died of cancer at age 47. SOLACE OF THE ROAD features her typical Irish flare with colorful characters leading less-than-perfect lives. She captures the loneliness and desperation of Solace as she searches for what most of us take for granted. American readers may find SOLACE OF THE ROAD a challenging read due to its definite Irish/British dialect and tone, but once they are caught up in the story, they will find it a rewarding read. Dowd's exceptional talent will be missed.
alexread More than 1 year ago
Very, very good. Thats all that needs to be said
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