Redemption Road is Scottish writer Lisa Ballantyne’s second novel — her earlier debut work being The Guilty One — inspired by the murder of Jamie Bulger — and published in 2012. The Guilty One attracted good reviews at the time and the Irish Independent put Ballantyne on a list of writers to watch.
Redemption Road is the story of a teacher, Margaret Holloway, who is involved in a motorway pileup on a snowy night. Trapped inside her car which is about to explode, Margaret is rescued by a stranger who then disappears.
Although she returns to work quickly, Margaret is traumatised by the accident. Something about being trapped in the burning car triggers buried childhood memories and makes her curious about her childhood.
When Margaret visits her father’s house, she retrieves a box of news cuttings and writings that her late mother had collected and as she looks through these clippings, she begins to remember glimpses from the past.
Meanwhile, she becomes increasingly fixated with the stranger who rescued her from the burning car. She begins to visit him in hospital where he has been in a coma since the accident and sits with him.
Like so many novels these days, Redemption Road has two timelines: one from 1985 when, it transpires, Margaret was abducted at the age of seven and one from 2013 in the period following her car accident.
There are three main characters — Margaret, her abductor and a journalist who investigated the 1985 abduction. At first, as the story moves between past and present, I was more interested in the 2013 timeline. Later, that changed, and I was increasingly drawn into the 1985 events. Margaret and her abductor — ‘Big George’ — are sympathetic and likeable characters. Angus, the journalist, much less so.
What I liked about Redemption Road is how sensitively the characters are developed and how positive the relationships are, particularly the relationship Margaret or ‘Moll’ and Big George and the adult relationship between Margaret and her husband Ben.
The plot in Redemption Road has one or two convenient coincidences but these are easy to forgive. After the first couple of chapters, the story settles into a pacy and absorbing read.
[Disclosure: An Advance Review Copy (ARC) of Redemption Road was provided via the publisher, Little Brown Book Group UK/Piatkus vis Netgalley]