Wrong Highway finds the reader at West Meadow, Long Island in New York about 1986 and we are thrust into a tale about two sisters; one a high energy mother of four who is very free spirited and the older sister a perfectionist mother of one who does everything just as responsibly as she is able. We begin at the New York World’s Fair years before when Debbie is watching Erica enjoy the fair and dancing in a fountain scooping up coins.
Erica is not working outside her home, as her boys are 9 years, 5-year-old twins, and a new baby girl. Her financial analyst husband is traveling all the time for his company and making a huge salary. The family wants for nothing. Erica is curious and busy driving the kids in Vance Volvo to their huge list of activities. She plays with her children and enjoys them so very much. She has a great deal of time on her own and fills it with exercise classes and beautiful clothes.
Debbie, a hairdresser, is worried about her son Jared, who is becoming a hyperactive and interestingly negative teen, who is experimenting with drugs. Jared’s activities are counseling sessions, and doctor’s appointments and listening to music. He wanders and cuts school a great deal and has stopped participating in sports.
Erica calls upon Debbie to rescue her when she has car trouble or needs emergency childcare. Debbie calls upon Erica to befriend her son and help him through these troubled years. Erica and Jared explore the friendship idea through smoking weed and heavy metal music. Jared begins to open up about his strict parents and reveals a family secret, which Erica has been guessing about for years. We travel through a world of Bah Mitzvahs and Sabbath dinners at their parents home. It is quite a year; hold onto your hat and turn up the volume on the 80s hits you so enjoyed.
The author has found a new home for herself in Portland, Oregon as I think growing up on the East Coast was not her comfort zone. She has captured the society and culture very well of the Eastern seaboard and all the programs and routines being practiced during this time period. I think the story would be very different and yet similar if we were looking at the West Coast or the Midwest or South. I think “weed” was being practiced in all those areas and fitness and teens were acting out after Vietnam too, but not so much “meanness” in the West. We can witness the breakdown between the “haves” and the “have nots” beginning as it is captured in this small family paradigm.
I was in the early parenting stages during this time and the parents around me were beginning to struggle and making schools perfect for their child was just as important as having a garden and growing organic veggies. Our kids were not being shipped off to so many activities, childcare, and camps but rather the parents were going to camps with their children and they wanted fun things to do that the parents enjoyed participating in as much as the children. Family secrets were highly privatized to shield imperfections and the downward mobility financially.
Wendy Gordon has truly shared an interesting time period with quite a fascinating fictional story, which allows a look back and makes one want to turn up the volume and explore your old record collection. What were we doing? What were our secrets? A very revealing read about family secrets and the effects of war on a society.
TLC Book Tours sent this book to Patricia’s Wisdom requesting a review.
From the Cover:
Wendy Gordon grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and lived in Boston, Chicago, and New York before finding her true home on the West Coast. She received a B.S. in Nutrition from Simmons College and an M.S. in clinical Nutrition from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. She has been a journalist for over twenty-five years, publishing in newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and children. This is her first book.