At its heart, The Rhythm of the Road is a love story between a father and his daughter and between a girl and her mother. Irish lorry driver Bobby Pickering loves listening to country music while driving his semi-trailer along the motorways of Great Britain, getting lost amongst the towns, fast food joints and truck stops.
His young daughter, Josephine, accompanies Bobby.
The two have a special bond, forged after Jo's mother, Rosalie, terrified of committing to a life in England, abandoned Jo when she was a baby. Jo has never met her American mother, yet Bobby never lets Jo forget the incident that brought his daughter into his life fulltime.
Their lives are defined by the music they so much love, and both have learnt to fend for themselves, free to soak up the independence and rhythm of the road. Jo is only twelve when they invite Cosima Stewart into their truck; she's a glamorous American country singer and the lead artist for the band The Goodtime Guys.
Over the next few years, Jo and Bobby become devoted groupies while Cosima develops a large following as she travels throughout the United Kingdom. For Bobby it’s a time of blooming confidence: he's now a "father with a big blue lorry," sure that nothing can stop the three of them - himself, his child and the truck – from driving on forever.
It doesn't take long, however, for cracks to appear and for Bobby's past to catch up with him. Plagued by his dead mother and his cruelly religious father, he sinks deep into a depression from which he seems incapable of resurfacing. Unfortunately, this despair unleashes a series of events that spectacularly affect Jo's security.
Set adrift, Jo begins to feel outside of everything in a world where nobody wants her. Bobby freaks out at the thought of his precious daughter, now sixteen, growing older and rapidly becoming a sexual being.
In turn, Jo is driven by spirituality of Cosima's songs, becoming besotted with the singer and with her sexy boyfriend, Rick.
At first, Cosima is sympathetic, as Bobby has inexplicably gone missing and there's no one else in her life. Yet from the outset, it is obvious this relationship between Jo and Cosima is one-sided and will come to a dreaded climax. Jo's internalized rage and pent-up self-disgust eventually become too much for Cosima to bear.
Using both the United Kingdom and the southwestern United States as a backdrop, and
vacillating between 1985/1986 and the present day, the novel speaks of both the mother and the daughter.
Together, they are more alike than either of them care to admit.
Like Rosalie, the downward spiral for Jo comes thick and fast - the drugs, sex and the drinking, along with the sickness and the perpetual hangovers. The constant need to find love drives her, and she is convinced that only Cosima can fulfill her needs; "she wants to climb inside the song and stay there."
This intelligent, perceptive and exquisitely written novel examines the terrible ramifications of delusion and obsession, where a teenager's life is suddenly thrown into chaos, haunted by the mistakes of her mother, and where self-rationale is weakened, overruled by unchecked emotion.
Jo's assignation with her fate five thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean eventually propels The Rhythm of the Road, as
does her desperate need to connect. This unusual and exotic tale is all about unforgettable drive towards self-realization and in the end serves as a deeply observed testament to the roads that we all must travel, where "the space is everywhere, all of it, the great stretch of silvery foreverdom."