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Book Review: The Toll Road North by Peggy L DeBlois

If DeBlois’s first novel is this enjoyable, then we have much to look forward from her in the

future. The Toll Road North (2022, Maine Authors Publishing) is set in a gritty setting of the

Image of The Toll Road North book cover

author’s hometown Lewiston, ME. Two tightly woven timelines, one in the 1960’s and 70’s, one in 2016, provide the reader with insights into how forty years can change characters who were born in the close-knit French/Canadian community. Characters who leave their past behind may find new realities, while those who stay continue to deal with old ways.

As an author of historical fiction who grew up in the 1960’s, I was mesmerized by the accuracy with which Peggy created her setting. Formica tabletops, metal counters, greasy-spoon restaurants, flood-prone neighborhoods along the Androscoggin where the poor families lived.

However, it was not the historical settings of the novel which drew me into the story, but rather the strength of character development and plot. There was something at the end of nearly every chapter foreshadowing what would come next. In the midst of trouble and conflict there was always a light touch of humor or surprise. From a very shocking first chapter to the peaceful resolution of the final scene, tension of the narrative was constant.

Often, critics dismiss the importance of books written by Maine authors with storylines taking place in Maine as being regional works, of little interest to anyone but locals. Deblois’ novel disproves that judgement.

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