Highway Blue by Ailsa McFarlane
5/18/21; 192 pages
Penguin Random House
Highway Blue by Ailsa McFarlane is a very highly recommended atmospheric but brief debut novel.
Anne Marie, 21, has been living in the town of San Padua since her husband, Cal left her two years ago after exactly one year of marriage. Since he left she has been struggling to get by, just surviving and trying to forget. When Cal suddenly shows up and asks her out for a drink, she agrees, but soon it becomes clear that he is in trouble and wants help from her. A violent encounter after this sends the two on the run together, escaping San Padua, but with no clear idea of their destination or what awaits them.
This is written as a classic road trip novel and almost feels like it
is set years ago as the two flee by hitchhiking down the coast.
Described as a story of love and of being lost and found, the novel has
more of a dreamlike quality to it. It doesn't feel like it is occurring
in the present day world. It feels like it is set much earlier, maybe in
the sixties or seventies, with the exception of a few current
technological advancements mentioned. The novel is, however, carefully
crafted and the quality of the writing shows promise for future works.
As Anne Marie recalls and explores her memories of her relationship with
her mother, we can see a glimmer of where her problems may have began,
but it feels like McFarlane holds back information, leaving the reader
The writing itself is descriptive and sets the whole tone of Highway Blue. The
characters are both well written and will produce sympathy in readers.
They also both seem to be powerless in the face of their situation, as
if the only way to take control is to run away. Anne Marie and Cal seem
like lost souls who need to find their footing. The narrative is told
through Anne Marie's voice and impressions. We know that she has changed
since Cal left as he often mentions it and she knows it, she also, to
some extent, tries to be the young woman he married. McFarlane is a new
writer to watch.