Highway Blue

Hogarth: Crown. May 2021. 192p. ISBN 9780593229118. $25. F
DEBUT In a debut novel of subtlety and incompleteness, we are first introduced to the narrator Anne Marie, who is living alone in a beach town. McFarlane lushly describes Anne Marie’s interior life and struggles; it has been two years since her husband Cal left her with little warning. Suddenly, Cal reappears, wanting money from Anne Marie. The implication is that he owes someone and that he is in some danger if he doesn’t come up with the cash. Next, inexplicably, he and Anne Marie are attacked by a mugger in an alley and the mugger is killed, causing Anne Marie and Cal to flee on a road trip; thus the title. They visit a friend, take possession of a decrepit used car, and drive off on a journey described with lyric beauty and nuance. When they end up in a town where Anne Marie has a friend, Anne Marie wakes up one morning, contacts the friend, and surreptitiously leaves Cal asleep in a motel room. Thus the story ends.
VERDICT The narrative is replete with brooding description and a sense of studied ennui. A detachment from a real sense of place causes a feeling of floating through amorphous existence. Recommended for fans of the indeterminate.
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