Mother Road

Written by Dorothy Garlock
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

A 1930s Oklahoma gas station on the fabled Route 66 is the setting for this romance between the home-rooted Leona and traveling man Yates. They’re drawn together after Leona’s brother-in-law Andy is bitten by a rabid skunk and must travel to Oklahoma City for hospitalization. Yates, beholden to the gentle mechanic for a rescue years before, agrees to take over his duties, including the care of his young daughters and Leona.

Leona endures a “fallen woman” reputation from townsfolk for living with a family headed by her dead sister’s husband. The impression is aided and abetted by her own brother, as mean a religious fanatic as one is likely to meet in fiction.

A colorful cast of characters on their way west stop at the station and campground. Attraction between the reticent Yates and big-hearted Leona develops through his care of the station, her young nieces and herself. When her brother is murdered, the plot gallops towards its love-tested conclusion.

Conventional characters, slow pacing and excessive point of view shifts (even the dog gets his chance to comment!) are offset by good command of Depression-era details and heartfelt story, only occasionally marred by anachronisms like characters talking about “relationships” and “anxiety” and children behaving with what seemed a more modern kind of brattiness.