Witches on the Road Tonight

Written by Sheri Holman
Review by Kristen Hannum

A writer and photographer, writing and shooting a travel guide for the WPA, drive the unmarked back roads of Appalachia in 1940. They clip a boy who darts in front of the car, beginning this suspenseful tale that skips about from the present day back to 1940, to 1967, to 1980, and back again. Holman draws her readers in with the mesmerizing cadences of poetry, secrets, sin, and regret. As the boy’s mother, Cora, matter-of-factly tells the writer, once witches slip into a family, they’re hard to get rid of. When he asks her just what her business is, Cora tells him she’d like to be… a hairdresser.

So goes Holman’s mix of magical realism, perfectly tinting this true story – true as in how Cora explains it: “Nobody wins. And that’s how you can tell it’s the truth.” Cora’s son Eddie leaves the hollows, becomes a television weatherman and horror movie host, and tries for redemption by saving a stranger. His daughter, in turn, takes up her grandmother’s ambiguous mantle, learning that unkind truth has all the destructive force of a curse. Intent, premeditated or thoughtless, shows its potency in these characters’ lives. On the victims’ parts, there’s despair, a turning away from the intent to survive. One lesson, for readers, is that it’s never safe to be a stranger. This is a masterful book by a talented writer practiced in the sorcery of plot and language.