'A writer of real gravitas and potency.' Ali Smith
'An extraordinary journey ... Engrossing, original and eloquent.' Helen Dunmore
'Elegiac and beautifully observed.' Observer
'Vivid and captivating.' Stylist
I didn’t realise my mother was a person until I was thirteen years old and she pulled me out of bed, put me in the back of her car, and we left home and my dad with no explanations. I thought that Ma was all that she was and all that she had ever wanted to be. I was wrong...
As Ma and Alex make their way from Virginia to California, each new state prompts stories and secrets of a life before Alex. Together they put to rest unsettled scores, heal old wounds, and search out lost friends. But Alex can't forget the life they've left behind.
A mother and her teenage daughter embark on a cross-country journey through the mother's past in this second novel from the author of The Shore. After months of listening to her parents argue, the narrator, Alex, 13, is suddenly living on the road with her capricious mother, Ma, who ferries them from Florida to California in search of a place to make a life. Lending structure to the road trip are flashbacks to Ma's episodes with "The Lauras," the various girls and women who shaped Ma's young identity in school, foster houses, and girls homes. Ma's journey to self-understanding sets the stage for Alex's self-discovery, as she unbeknownst to Ma trades sex for rides from strange men, writes letters to her abandoned father, and comes to know her mother's darkest secrets. The trip finally leads them to cross the border into Canada, where one of the Lauras may or may not offer both Ma and Alex what they seek. Though there are some underexplored subplots, the mother-daughter relationship lends pathos and purpose to this voyage.