Cover Image: Highway Blue

Highway Blue

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while I am sure this appeals to  some readers, I was not one of them. Although the writing is good, the story was a bit..maudlin?
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Beautifully written story in an unplaceable time and place. It was full of flashbacks that fit perfectly in with the adventure story. It was lovely
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Highway Blue should've been titles Highway Bland. It's supposed to be a road trip novel, but nothing happens.  

The MC, who was so forgettable I forgot her name,  and her ex husband, Cal, who left her one day, years ago, hit the road after one of them accidentally kills the muscle sent after him by the people Cal money to. And then the book drones on. 

Zero sympathy for any of the characters.
Zero plot. Zero resolution.
Writing is a series of run on sentences.
I'm surprised this was picked up for publishing.
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Very moody! I almost felt like I was reading a pitch for a movie rather than a novel. It also felt like a reimagining of Bonnie and Clyde where Bonnie and Clyde had been married before. Anne Marie was a treat and I enjoyed reading their story. It was sort of creepy and threatening without being scary.
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A narrative of self discovery that occurs through a heartbreak, a crime and life on the run. The plot flows even though the writing was awkward at times. Not a favorite unfortunately.
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"We married when I was 19, in a little wooden shack church down in Tana Beach." Cal was a little drunk. He left Anne Marie exactly one year later, vanishing without a trace. Anne Marie now worked in a bar by day and was a dog walker by night. She rented a space in an apartment with four girls who all worked together in a hair/nail salon. "The [apartment] was an old peeling heap, an ugly dump with a leak in the ceiling and spiders in the corners." "Everything about [Anne Marie] seemed for a strange moment to have shrunk in on itself." She was lonely, sometimes seeking comfort in the arms of a stranger. Thoughts of Cal were often "in her head".

"Cal was always shifting...shifting ideas, shifting plans, always going somewhere, always something on his mind, the next thing...until the next one." Suddenly after two years had passed, he arrived on Anne Marie's doorstep. He convinced her to go for a drink. Cal had an agenda. Needing money fast, Anne Marie was his last hope. She had no money to spare. The past silence and stunted conversation between them had not changed.

A very determined Cal started to walk Anne Marie home. "The houses in this part of town stood up on stilts-their old wooden faces sagged...up ahead-a little alley which led away from the oceanfront-a shortcut...". A dark shadow stepped out from the alley. "Where's the money, Cal?" A struggle. A gun discharged. Anne Marie and Cal, were on the run, leaving San Padua immediately. Hitching a ride from the main highway was their first step to the town of La Maya. Perhaps Cal's friend could supply a bed for the night and then a car to speed up their journey to safety.

Anne Marie mulled over her childhood memories while embarking upon a journey of self discovery. Did she ever really know Cal? Does she want to know him now? What are Cal's thoughts and feelings after two years spent without Anne Marie? Each one must confront the past and choose a path going forward.

"Highway Blue" by debut author Ailsa McFarlane is a literary novella seemingly spare of words, but in its simplicity, it packs a powerful punch.

Thank you Random House Publishing Group/ Hogarth Press and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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After her husband Cal left one morning without a word, Anne Marie had been surviving by working odd jobs, sharing a dingy apartment with several other girls, and trying her best to forget what it was she had loved about Cal. When he reappears after two years, needing money to pay off a debt, Anne Marie finds she is still drawn to him, to whatever magic they once had together. Walking back to Anne Marie’s apartment that night, a man steps out from the shadows and demands Cal pay his debt. There is a struggle, a gun goes off, and the man is dead in the street. Suddenly Cal and Anne Marie are on the run, hurrying out of town to avoid being questioned for murder.

Highway Blue gives the reader a glimpse into Anne Marie’s world, one of abandonment and uncertainty, of hard work, little rest, and under all the hurt and confusion is the love she once had for Cal. I really liked Anne Marie and appreciated her survival instincts and her willingness to face her truth and become stronger for it. This debut novel is real and honest, spare but detailed, and I would be interested in seeing what other stories Ailsa McFarlane has to tell.
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An absolute steamroller of a novel, Highway Blue will grab you from the very first word and won't let you go.
It is beautifully written in the style of an absolute master; the language is spare and simple but so very provocative - Ailsa McFarlane has a gift for communicating profound ideas in very few words.
Highway Blue reads like poetry in parts and there's a dreamy tone throughout that makes it a truly captivating read.
The characters feel real in all their imperfection and road-trip narrative feels a little like On The Road brought into the 2020s. The storyline itself is ultimately unfulfilling as so much is left unresolved and the journey doesn't reach a satisfying ending; but that seems like something of a triumph in itself - like any good roadtrip, the fun is in the journey, not the destination.
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I received this galley preview for an honest opinion. Anne Marie is a high school girl that doesn’t seem to connect.  She lives with her aunt but they don’t get along so she moves to a room with some other girls.  At a party she meets Cal who she goes out with and ends up marrying.  On the first anniversary Cal disappears to reappear two years later and in big debt.  In asking for help, they get in a situation where they leave town and travel.
Highway Blue is interesting but very elementary.  The writing is very simple and the plot is non-existent. The story is non linear and sometimes it’s hard to figure where you are in the story.  Not really sure what the story is
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Anne Marie was surprised when her husband Cal disappeared a year into their marriage and she's surprised now that he's turned up again two years later.  She's been working in a bar, something bad happens, and the two of them go on the run.  Slowly.  While this starts off on the west coast, their travels take them down through the southwest (although place is less important than emotion).  This is written (over written) in steam of consciousness so the reader gets Anne Marie's perspective and thoughts on many things.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  Fans of literary fiction will want to take a look at this short debut novel.
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Highway Blue is a beautifully written book which is able to evoke in the reader, the same feelings of unsettled, searching dislocation felt by the protagonist. The descriptions of both characters and place are excellent, allowing the book to play out like a movie in the reader’s mind. More than that, one can sense, smell and even taste the atmosphere and surroundings. However, it is a true Blues song, living up to its title, which I suppose is the aim. There is no respite from the dark, uncertainty surrounding the protagonist’s present, her future and even her past, which seems to have been filled with sad upheaval following the loss of the one person who provided an anchor in her early years. While I found this book interesting and engaging, there was no spark of joy to balance the despair, which is what I need to truly love a book. Thank you to the author, Penguin Random House and NetGalley for the ARC.
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I would give this story 2 1/2 stars but seeing that's impossible I'm upping it to 3 stars. Highway Blue, by Ailsa McFarlane isn't a bad story. To me, there just wasn't really a story at all. I want to thank NetGally and Hogarth for an early copy to review.
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Highway Blue by Ailsa McFarlane is a very highly recommended atmospheric but brief debut novel.

Anne Marie, 21, has been living in the town of San Padua since her husband, Cal left her two years ago after exactly one year of marriage. Since he left she has been struggling to get by, just surviving and trying to forget. When Cal suddenly shows up and asks her out for a drink, she agrees, but soon it becomes clear that he is in trouble and wants help from her. A violent encounter after this sends the two on the run together, escaping San Padua, but with no clear idea of their destination or what awaits them.

This is written as a classic road trip novel and almost feels like it is set years ago as the two flee by hitchhiking down the coast. Described as a story of love and of being lost and found, the novel has more of a dreamlike quality to it. It doesn't feel like it is occurring in the present day world. It feels like it is set much earlier, maybe in the sixties or seventies, with the exception of a few current technological advancements mentioned. The novel is, however, carefully crafted and the quality of the writing shows promise for future works. As Anne Marie recalls and explores her memories of her relationship with her mother, we can see a glimmer of where her problems may have began, but it feels like McFarlane holds back information, leaving the reader wanting more.

The writing itself is descriptive and sets the whole tone of Highway Blue. The characters are both well written and will produce sympathy in readers. They also both seem to be powerless in the face of their situation, as if the only way to take control is to run away. Anne Marie and Cal seem like lost souls who need to find their footing. The narrative is told through Anne Marie's voice and impressions. We know that she has changed since Cal left as he often mentions it and she knows it, she also, to some extent, tries to be the young woman he married. McFarlane is a new writer to watch.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest opinion.
The review will be submitted for publication on Amazon, Google Books, and Barnes & Noble.
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This book lacked a pulse. The plot seemed to meander despite the intriguing blurb, the characters were one-dimensional, and the ending only gave the guise of a resolution.
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This is a quick and voyeuristic look into a few days in a young girl’s life; a girl with no roots, no baggage (literally and figuratively), and absolutely no expectations of life. I realize this sounds sad, but it’s a very realistic peek into the average young person’s life who finds themselves out on their own with nothing of any substance.
Anne Marie is surviving, not living, but simply surviving day to day. Her wayward husband suddenly appears again after a two-year absence, and immediately they're thrust into a violent situation. On the run, they attempt some semblance of a relationship and shared life, but it fails miserably.
The lifestyle of Anne Marie is one I’m not familiar with, but sadly a large population of people live like this day to day. No hopes, no plans, no idea where the next meal is coming from, no concern for basic needs, no expectations. The only basic human need Anne Marie expressed was the desire to take a shower. She was aware that she and her husband had body odor. Other than this one basic desire, she is simply surviving.
This is a quick and sad read, a voyeuristic look into a snippet of how others may live, a sad commentary of human needs and desires. This doesn’t sound like an interesting subject to read, but thanks to the beautiful writing and imagery, it is captivating. It echoes “Thelma and Louise” to me, sad but stunning.
Sincere thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The publishing date was May 18, 2021.
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highway blue is a vivid yet surreal road novel. we follow anne marie and her estranged husband, cal, after an unexpected violent death forces them to head out on a delirious journey.

they travel an unidentifiable landscape in the southwest US. it seems to be the southern california coast, but perhaps it's better that we don't know for sure. and although there are a few brief references to modern technology, the whole book seems to take place in an atmosphere of timeless highway.

the gritty, summer-hot vibes and the ever-shifting coastal scenery are the most notable things about this novel. despite being a story about two people on the lam, not much happens in highway blue. we spend most of the book in anne marie's mind as she watches the scenery streaming past, reflects on her relationship with cal, thinks about the mother she lost when she was fifteen, and observes other people living their odd little lives around her.

this rambling stream-of-consciousness style is definitely not for everyone. there are many long passages like this:

"There was a little pebbled rest area in the woods for the logging trucks and it was edged with long wild grasses which gave way to the dark of the pine trees. We were ringed by them. Up above us was an oval of night sky full of stars and dark quick-moving clouds and wind moving the black treetops at its edge.

"I got out of the car and walked to the edge of the trees and there was the smell of pine, sharp, and the wet smells of soil and moss on the breeze.

"I had left my shoes in the footwell of the car and my feet were bare. Between tufts of grass there were pieces of gravel and they dug into the soles of my feet and the pain seemed to heighten the night and sharpen it and it felt good."

it's melancholic and beautiful, although page after page of landscape imagery can become tiresome. but for the most part i enjoyed being swept into the arid setting, which is richly detailed and atmospheric; so i enjoyed highway blue.

i also appreciate the theme song which often plays through anne marie's mind: this grateful dead track. she says it's her namesake, and the vibe is very fitting.

i'd recommend highway blue if you want a short, dreamy, and quietly introspective read.

Thank you to NetGalley and Hogarth Press for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic ARC of this novel received in exchange for an honest review. 
Expected publication date: May 18, 2021
Alisa McFarlane’s debut novel, “Highway Blue”, is a setting-driven, coming-of-age, road trip story set amongst the backdrop of California, with an honest and powerful protagonist. 
Anne Marie is trying to start her life over after her husband left her, less than a year into their union. Dog walking and waitressing is paying the bills until one day, her husband, Cal shows up and Anne Marie’s life is completely turned upside down. After an altercation with a drug dealer, a gun goes off and soon both Cal and Anne Marie are on the run from the police. As the two are forced together on a state-wide road trip, they must come to terms not only with their broken relationship, but also with themselves. 
The story is narrated by Anne Marie, and McFarlane does a wonderful job of bringing the voice of Anne Marie to life. Normally, a story that is short on commas and long on sentences would turn me off, but in this case it actually helped hear Anne Marie’s voice in my head. Young, naïve, and under-educated, Anne Marie is telling the story in her own words, and we are able to see the world through her eyes. 
As mentioned, the story is very heavily reliant on the setting. McFarlane uses beautifully poetic adjectives to describe the California landscape, as Cal and Anne Marie make their way across the state. After the first dramatic scene, nothing extraordinary happens, but I was still invested enough in Anne Marie’s story to want to know how it ends. 
Anne Marie’s bravery comes out in full force in the end of the novel, and I emphatically cheered for her. I felt as if I had been through Anne Marie’s transition with her, and the ending brought so much satisfaction and closure. 
McFarlane’s debut will make waves when it hits shelves in May. Beautifully written, poetic and emotional, “Highway Blue” will push McFarlane into full-fledged “author” status.
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Highway Blue is a short novel of under 200 pages. Alisa McFarlane offers readers a moment in time in the life of her characters, two lost and lonely young adults whose lives intersect in a moment in time. 

Twenty-year-old Anne Marie is going through the motions of life, living with strangers, work at a bar and dog walking giving her just enough money to survive, still hurt by the disappearance of her husband after a year of marriage. Now he suddenly has returned, hoping Anne Marie can save him, but she has nothing to give him.

But when a man attacks them and ends up dead, Cal convinces Anne Marie to run and over the next days she remembers her past and contemplates Cal's place in her future.

They are helped by strangers along the way, a happy couple and a lonely trucker. Cal tells Anne Marie that he had hoped their marriage would give him a place to belong in this world. She had loved him. He loved the idea of them.

Heavy on dialogue and Anne Marie's inner thoughts, the story is about romantic ideals and disillusion, the limits of love, and the strength to recreate oneself.

I received a free galley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.
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I was lucky enough to win an electronic ARC of HIGHWAY BLUE by Ailsa McFarlane in a Shelf Awareness giveaway. Thank you for the early look, and stay safe!
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I was given a copy of this book by the publisher to read and review.

I'll be honest, if this book wasn't so short, I would not have finished it. It was VERY short, about a 2 hour read.

I can absolutely see people enjoying this book. I was not one of those people. The writer's prose came off as pretentious to me. Hey look! I'm going to write paragraphs that are massive run-on sentences and I'm going to put the word 'and' instead of using a period and it will be really cool and it will end up being really annoying to me and it was just too much and hence my dislike.

Another thing that I didn't like about this book was that there was no storytelling. The author dumps us into the life and mind of the main character and didn't create enough story to keep me interested. We basically jump into her life for a couple of weeks and then jump back out of it. There was nothing to help me identify or empathize with the characters.
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