If this were the classic road novel, 17-year-old Remy Walker would leave his little West Virginia town of Dwyer and go off with his $1,000 life savings, his beat-up old car, and his girlfriend Lisa as she heads to college in Pennsylvania. After all, what does this old mining town offer? It’s old, worn out and “past the purpose it was built for.” The coal is gone, the old miners’ houses are falling apart, hotels and offices are boarded up, and kudzu is taking over everything. It’s a “town full of people who didn’t know they were living in a time warp, people who’d been left behind or were too stupid to get up and go.” Even Remy’s mother couldn’t take this life and walked out, leaving Remy and his father to live on in the little trailer on Walker Mountain.
Remy loves Lisa, and what 17-year-old boy could resist a pretty girl, the lure of the open road and a new life in a better place? But when another pretty young artist comes to town and sees Dwyer with an outsider’s eyes, she makes Remy see things anew and wonder about his decision to leave and his single-minded love for Lisa. When Mr. Walker tells his son he’s thinking of selling the land to a mining company to help Remy have a better future, Remy’s decision becomes tortured and tangled. After all, Walker Mountain has been in Remy’s family for 160 years, before there ever was a town. “It was woven through every memory he had.”
Wyatt’s prose is simple and poetic, a perfect match for a quiet, reflective story about the tug of home and the lure of the road. The dialogue is pitch-perfect, the third-person voice perfect for dissecting the complexities of relationships and life-changing decisions. It’s a beautiful gem of a book, with resolutions, but not easy ones—and enough to make readers look anew and appreciate the wonders of their own places in the world.
Dean Schneider teaches middle school English in Nashville.