Thompson Road

Written by Scott Wyatt
Review by Cindy Vallar

When fourteen-year-old Raleigh Starr rescues kittens from a burning barn on Thompson Road in 1937, he crosses paths with Mona Garrison, a feebleminded twelve-year-old. Later, he protects her from bullies. He doesn’t think much about her until he’s seventeen and head over heels in love with Sally Springs, who doesn’t notice him since she already has a boyfriend. He yearns to change that, but doesn’t know how until he spies Mona dancing. Her fluid grace spurs him to enter the 1941 dance contest at the Western Washington State Fair. Sally and her beau placed third last year, and if he and Mona win this time, Sally will have to notice him. First, though, Mona must teach him how to dance.

For his plan to work, no one must know what they’re doing. Each week after Mona cleans his aunt’s house, Raleigh takes her to a bar where they practice. Without telling the Garrisons about the contest, he convinces them to let her accompany him to the fair as a reward for her hard work. They win, but Raleigh’s lies and betrayal of trust have a profound effect on their lives. He goes to war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, while Mrs. Garrison, fearing her niece will adopt loose morals, has Mona institutionalized and a stranger appointed as her guardian.

Spanning two decades, Thompson Road is a tale of how seemingly innocent actions have irreparable consequences and the struggles people endure because of the choices they make. It is set during a time when people with mental disabilities have no rights, and Wyatt provides a horrifying glimpse into what that means. This poignant story portrays the social aspects of life, and the emotions it evokes linger long after the last page is turned.