Summary: The Road to Wherever
In The Road to Wherever, 11-year-old June (Henry Junior) Ball’s mother sends him off on the road with his adult second cousins after his father disappears without a word. Cousins Thomas and Cornell are “Ford Men” traveling throughout the US to fix people’s old Ford trucks for free. The Ford owners only have to buy spare parts.
As the road trip progresses, the the men teach June about Ford trucks, fixing cars, and being kind. June also processes his father’s absence while expanding his heart by meeting just as many broken humans as Ford trucks.
I found this to be just a beautiful coming-of-age novel. It’s not “action-packed,” true. But it’s full of life and small moving moments that never leave you. June is a sweet, polite boy coping with his father’s absence and the change in behavior due to PTSD and the alcoholism that preceded his disappearance. June’s father is never violent throughout the course of the story — he’s just hurting and unpredictable in terms of his emotions.
I loved the road trip! June’s cousins are eccentric, kind, and very handy. They travel with a truck packed full of fresh food, they cook their breakfast in a cast iron pan, and they do their business in holes dug outside. It was like camping, but even better, with all the comforts — they even have a shower setup! Besides the atmospheric nature of this book, there’s also the way the boys treat their customers.
Throughout the road trip the Ball men meet several different Ford owners, from a diner owner to a woman whose husband was killed during the Civil Rights Movement to a girl whose also waiting for her parents to come home. We get to hear their stories and see that everyone is just trying to make it through life. I’m not at all into cars, and yet, I found the love of Fords fascinating, as well as the whole process of fixing them up.
Overall: The Road to Wherever
The Road to Wherever is a heartfelt road trip adventure story about family, community, and purpose. This middle grade novel is vivid, pulsing with life and emotion, and perfect for anyone who has ever experienced longing. Hand this to fans of road trip stories, books with sensitive male protagonists, or books about mental health challenges.
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Thanks to the publisher for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.