Niagara Motel by Ashley Little
Arsenal Pulp Press: 11/15/16
eBook review copy; 296 pages
Niagara Motel by Ashley Little is a quirky, sometimes
heartbreaking, but strangely charming story of an eleven-year-old
boy set in1992. It's highly recommended.
Tucker Malone, 11, is the only child of Gina, an unreliable
narcoleptic mother whose occupation is stripper and, occasionally,
escort. For his whole life, the pair has been moving constantly from
one place to another in Canada. After making their way to Niagara
Falls, they stay at the run-down Niagara Motel. Gina is sure this
will be her big break - until she falls asleep in the street and is
hit by a car. Tucker manages to find her at the hospital, but,
due to Gina's long recovery for her injuries, he is put into Bright
Light, a group home for teens - the only place that has room for
There he meets Meredith, a pregnant 16 year-old. The two decide to
secretly go on a road trip to Boston to find Tucker's father. Tucker
believes that Sam Malone, the bar tender on Cheers, is his
father; obviously, this is not true. Then, after the car they
"borrowed" breaks down, the two decide to hitchhike to California to
meet Ted Danson, the actor who plays Sam Malone. Their travels put
them in contact with a motley group of people, many of whom you'd
recognize as infamous during this time period. They arrive in Los
Angeles just as the Rodney King riots are unfolding.
The story is written through Tucker's point-of-view in a
straightforward, matter-of-fact manner that is indicative of a
preteen boy. Tucker is a great character, positive, and accepting,
despite the struggles he has encountered in his life. His inner
strength is resolute. His cherished possessions are in a shoe box.
He and his mom travel light. His beloved little plastic dog broke my
heart (I teared up just typing this). The ending is a bit
unbelievable, but so is his road trip in general, so I just rolled
There is something in this novel that just appealed to me. It is
well-written, well-paced and compelling. I like Tucker. Little had
me caring about Tucker and wishing the best for him. The people he
meets on his trip are a bizarre assortment of characters that you
should recognize, many for their future evil deeds. Tucker's firm
belief that he can find his father is touching. The end of the book,
during the riots, is horrifically violent.
My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher/author.