Book Club: Riding the High Road is about independence and identity
Told in three points of view, we start in Sheffield with Gethin. On his 18th birthday, his mum, Pat, gives him a letter from his biological father.
But, having grown up without giving his sperm-donor father a second thought, Gethin is disconcerted to suddenly discover something about the man whose genes he shares.
Next we meet Jez, a girl living in Scotland and caring for her dying birth-father with whom she has been recently reunited.
His passing gives Jez the financial freedom to hit the road on a motorbike. It’s a trip that will bring her and Gethin together when, much to Pat’s dismay, he decides to cut the apron strings and go hunting for his long-lost father north of the border.
His quest will prove personally challenging for him. However, his connection with Jez and the adventures they share, including rescuing stranded whales, set him on the path to adulthood.
Meanwhile, Pat is left to figure out who she is now that her son is striking out on his own.
She is forced to confront her parenting choices and the grief of losing her son, while trying to produce material for a new art exhibition.
These events are happening in the run up to the Scottish Independence Referendum, and the freedom to explore one’s own identity is the thematic throughline of the narrative.
It is fitting, therefore, that the three protagonists’ journeys ultimately converge in Scotland. At this point, each of them has not only reached a fuller understanding of themselves but also of their importance to each other: individual yet unified.
Penny Frances has a particular talent for dialogue scenes, which is fortunate because there are a great many of them!
Due to this skill, her characters, their voices, emotions, and relationships are vivid, and readers are likely to root for all three of the characters and hope that the roads they have chosen by the end of the novel will lead them to better places in future.