“An evocative and darkly beautiful story” of a young woman’s trek across America in the Dust Bowl years by a New York Times–bestselling “master novelist” (The Denver Post).
After a violent dust storm leaves their mother dead and the family farm in ruins, twelve-year-old Laurie Field and her younger brother, Buddy, believe their world has ended when their grieving, debt-ridden father brings them to live with their reprobate grandfather in the Oklahoma Panhandle, promising to send for them when he finds one of those fabled jobs luring thousands to California.
Abandoned and afraid, the children find hope in the songs taught them by Johnny Morrigan, an itinerant oil field worker who hitched a ride with the family on his way to Texas. Desperate to escape their brutal grandfather, Laurie and Buddy hop a train clanging west and become fall in with a hobo named Way after he saves them from a sinister tramp.
In California, the children find only heartbreak, so they and Way set out for Texas in the hopes of reuniting with Johnny Morrigan. Like the fellow travelers they encounter on the roads and rails crisscrossing America, Laurie, Buddy, and Way take joy in simple pleasures such as a campfire meal, a starry night, and a song. They learn firsthand the kindness ordinary folk can show to those even poorer. At last, in lusty Texas oil field towns, they find work, Morrigan, and a deadly menace as Laurie grows from innocent girl to vibrant woman.
A riveting story of hardship, adventure, and romance, The Longest Road pays glorious tribute to the men and women who kept the American dream alive during the Great Depression.
Four-time Golden Spur award winner Williams ( The Island Harp ) fills her Depression-era saga with gritty details and keen social observations. Laurie, 11, and her younger brother, Buddy, are left with their much-despised grandfather in Oklahoma after a dust storm kills their mother and decimates their family farm, inspiring their father to seek work in California. Determined to join him, the children hop a freight train, with Laurie posing as a boy. A series of chance encounters shapes their future. An unlikely tramp inspires Laurie with his music and gives her a harmonica; another hobo with surprising talents becomes the children's protector. And a sinister entrepreneur emerges as their nemesis. A procession of bleak shantytowns, rapacious employers and impoverished families mirrors the nation's tragedy. Eventually, the advent of WW II and oil strikes in Texas put a different twist on Laurie and Buddy's adventures, but at this point multiple subplots (battle dramas, romantic interludes) begin to spin out of control. On the whole, however, Williams's colorful story keeps the reader engaged.