In 1955, George Stanton—drug user, alcoholic, and embezzler—flees from Chicago when both the underworld and the law close in on him. Meanwhile in St. Louis, the aged widow Mabel Crowley takes in a street urchin, a little girl named Stryker. The reluctant Stryker holds on desperately to a stuffed monkey toy because the mother who abandoned her said never to let the monkey out of her sight. A medical exam shows that Stryker has acute leukemia, and only an experimental treatment at the UCLA Medical Center has any hope of a cure. So Mabel loads Stryker and the monkey into her aging Studebaker and sets out for California.
A few miles down Highway 66 they find a wreck. George Stanton, driving his Lincoln while drunk, has sped into sharp curve and crashed. Mabel and Stryker take the ungracious George in, and thus begins a long and troubled odyssey for the ill-matched and cross-motivated trio.
In author Catherine Leggitt's practiced handling, this conflicted situation becomes both a fascinating story and a character study of unusual depth. As the journey progresses, each of the three characters changes the other two and is changed by them. As a bonus for the reader, the author's detailed historical research on the geography of Highway 66 and its environs, together with her extensive knowledge of classic automobiles, add interest at each point along the way. The author weaves all of these threads into a narrative of increasing tension, leading to a climax in which the characters and the reader confront the stark reality of eternal truth. These factors make for an excellent book with a depth rarely found in commercial fiction.
Reviewed by Donn Taylor, author of Lightning on a Quiet Night, Deadly Additive, etc.