Rush Home Road
Published by: Back Bay Books
Release Date: June 27, 2008
Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indigo
Heartbreaking and wise, Rush Home Road tells the life story of Adelaide Shadd, who finds redemption in old age, and Sharla, a five-year-old mixed race girl abandoned to Addy’s care by her white mother. Born in the first decade of the 20th century in Rusholme (inspired by the real town of Buxton), in southwestern Ontario, an all-black community settled by fugitive slaves, Addy Shadd is raped as a teenager and forced to flee the family home. She makes her way on foot to Detroit, where she becomes the housekeeper for an elderly man and his grown son, both of whom develop a crush on her. When misfortune strikes again, she sets off to make a new life for herself in Canada. Thrown off the train at Keating, not far from her birthplace, she meets and eventually marries the train porter, the wonderful Mose, with whom she has a daughter. But when tragedy strikes, Addy is left alone.
Now an old woman, she lives a quiet existence in a trailer park near Chatham. Her whole world changes when a young mother asks her to babysit her daughter, as it soon becomes clear that the mother is never coming back. Addy is glad of the company, but not sure if she’s up to the job of mothering this sweet, awkward five-year-old. Nor is she sure how much longer she’ll be around to do so. How she manages is part of the story of this brilliantly captivating novel.
Written with verve, grace and unflinching emotional acuity, Rush Home Road is an epic story that explodes our notions of identity, justice, and heroism, penetrating one of our darkest periods with profound insight and humanity. Addy Shadd is a protagonist like no other -- full of quiet, steely bravery and tenderness of heart. This spellbinding novel will leave no reader untouched.
“The story's beauty is in its simplicity. Told coldly, without pretension, it reveals Lansens as an honest writer with a convincing knowledge of her characters and chosen period. She takes racism, love, hate, violence, and forgiveness in her stride.”
— Sunday Express, UK
“Rush Home Road, the story of a 70-year-old woman's journey through the nearly unbearable sorrows of her past, in order to save an abandoned little girl, is a first novel of exquisite power, honesty, and conviction. Its portrait of how much has changed, and how little, over nearly a century, in the realms of race, love, hate, and loss, is quite nearly without flaws.”
— Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and A Theory of Relativity
“A poignant novel about the power of love and forgiveness.”
“To read Lansens' Rush Home Road is to read Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women coupled with Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel, but as if both novels had been penned by Toni Morrison.... Lansens is a brilliant talent, with a profound, big-hearted comprehension of human flaws and humane possibilities.”
—The Globe and Mail
“Those two people [Addy and Sharla] are powerful creations who will grab even reluctant readers and hold them until the end, showing that you not only can go home again but you can also go triumphant.”
—Nashville City Paper
“A book with the power to captivate.”
—The Irish Tattler
“A stunning debut novel.”
—Sunday Express, UK
"Brilliant in its microscopic portrayal of the scent and stench, tears and screams of black Canadian life in a small southern Ontario town; but not forgetting to show how laughter and joy played a dramatic role in the fabric of life there for former slaves, Rush Home Road draws with graphic pulsating prose the picture of life in the developing ‘Negro‘ societies formed by the proliferation of Canadian stations of the Underground Railway. Rush Home Road takes you back to face the breath-stopping tragedy of Canadian racialism. But the inherent strength of black life and black culture prevails through the novel‘s unremitting realism.”
—Austin Clarke, Giller Prize-winning author of The Polished Hoe
“In Rush Home Road, Lori Lansens creates a teeming, forgotten world linked to our own by one woman‘s life, laid down across the twentieth century like a fragile railroad track.”
—The Vancouver Sun
“Rush Home Road is a major triumph…. Dickens has written some stuff like this; so have Alice Munro and Raymond Carver, Haruki Murakami and Penelope Fitzgerald, Rohinton Mistry and Robertson Davies. But not on their first try.”
—The Hamilton Spectator
“Lansens interweaves the past and present cinematically, with both narrative lines holding the reader rapt. Rush Home Road is a compulsively readable book that leaves us feeling we know more about a time and a place-and about humankind-than when we opened the cover.”
—Quill and Quire
Rush Home Road is my first novel. It’s a story about an old black woman, Addy Shadd, finding redemption through the act of caring for a five-year-old, Sharla Cody, abandoned on her doorstep. It’s set in the landscape of my youth, Chatham, Ontario, Canada, which became the fictional world of Baldoon County. I revived the people and places I’d imagined in my formative years, and wove the history of the area, as a terminus on the Underground Railroad and a hot spot for bootlegging, into the narrative too. Nearby Buxton, Ontario, settled by fugitive slaves, was the inspiration for Rusholme. My cousins have blood ties to Buxton. I feel a connection to it on a number of levels.
I started writing short stories and plays in my early twenties and spent many years writing screenplays, most of which never saw the light of day. For a long time I was intent on directing a screenplay that I’d written – the story of an abandoned teen and a false messiah. The story was called Jesus Freaks, and speaks to my complicated feelings about the Catholic faith. My husband and I had tried to finance the film over the course of four years but failed. We’d put off having a family and lost a sizable investment as we tried to raise funds. When I surrendered, finally, to failure, I felt lost. My husband encouraged me to write the novel I’d been talking about writing for fifteen years as a balm for my disappointment. That’s what I did.
I’d been thinking about the story of Rush Home Road for so long that by the time I sat down to write it felt more like I was retelling it than creating it. I was living in Toronto, Canada, at the time, and walked everywhere, and often found myself strolling down one of my favorite streets – Rusholme Street. I could Addy Shadd whisper – Rush Home. I felt her possession of me. When I sat down at my computer my fingers couldn’t keep up with the story she had to tell. I would write for eight or ten hours, barely noting the passage of time.
Within months of beginning the book I discovered I was pregnant and felt incredibly fortunate. I cut my work hours, but realized that my child in utero was hearing hour upon hour of the tapping of the keyboard but few human voices for the better part of a day. It was then that I started to write out loud so that the baby would know the sound of my voice. Hearing the text changed the way I looked at the work. The characters from Rusholme are still with me. I think about them like far-flung relatives that I’d love to catch up with, if only I could.