Many books try to describe the life of the marginal and the lost beyond civilization, but Roadwalkers clinches it. The first section plausibly chronicles the genesis of one such group of drifters in the early 20th century, and their subsequent fate. “They were six children and a mother and a father and they all lived in a house with their grandparents.” Then the grandfather is killed, the father and mother run off, the grandmother dies, and the children are left on their own. One or two find places to stay, one drowns in a barrel, and several drift on to become the roadwalkers of the title, a hobo existence bordering on feral. The second part of this narrative tells the story of Charles Tucker, son of a poor farmer, rising to become the manager of an estate. Depredations on the grounds lead him to discover the last two of the roadwalker pack, a boy and his youngest sister, called Baby. Because Charles is white and Baby black, he searches the black community for a place she can be raised, placing her at an orphan home in New Orleans. We don’t learn more of Baby/Mary directly, instead the final third follows Mary’s daughter. The early life of Nanda and her mother reminded me strongly of Chocolat, with its mother-daughter bond and the definition as outsider from the places they live. Both women overcome odds of poverty and prejudice and can be admired for their strength and determination, but they are impossible to like, and this part of the book was the least enjoyable. Overall, however, this novel was a pleasure to read.