Today we are excited to announce a reader review event featuring the book CC’s Road Home by Leah B. Eskine. Read the reviews of this captivating young adult novel and an interview with the author, while also entering to have the chance to win your own copy of the book.
First, about the book CC’s Road Home:
Desperate to forget her past, sixteen-year-old CC arrives on her grandparents’ North Louisiana farm and asks, “Will I ever feel normal again?” She brushes aside her family’s attempts to break through her isolation and angst and hides her darkest secret from her beloved Gran. Even CC’s vivacious new friend, Addy, and a summer romance with steely-eyed Eric can’t persuade her to reveal what happened last winter in New Orleans.
It’s 1964 and as Beatlemania and Motown captivate America’s youth, this young woman encounters small-town racial tension, erupting sexual assault, and ignorance towards her beloved brain-injured Uncle Bud, all issues fueling the dynamic conflicts in Leah Eskine’s debut novel.
What WOW readers said:
“CC’s Road Home, takes place in a rural Louisiana town in the 1960s. A sixteen-year-old Cicely visits her grandparents when she is left there by her mom. You get a real sense of her dysfunctional relationship with her alcoholic mom and how that affects her life and the decisions she makes.
The story is a heart-wrenching representation of how teen pregnancy was dealt with back then. These teen girls who found themselves in one of the most emotional and vulnerable situations of their lives had no recourse but to be shipped off to a strange place so they could have their babies, ‘out of sight.’ These poor girls are were forced to sign away their rights and give their children up for adoption.
Within the pregnancy storyline, another aspect of the story is played out within the tumultuous times of the 60s, dealing with racial inequality and racism.
The novel’s storyline is excellent and fleshed out however there are some issues throughout the novel. There are plots that get brought up but never resolved. Some of the dialogue is awkward and fragmented which pulls the reader out of the story.
With that being said, the book gives the reader many emotions throughout its story and finally comes to a bittersweet end, beginning with Cicely meeting Adrianna. It’s sweet and tear-jerking but it helps the reader understand that Cicely is healing the scars of her past so she can live for her future.”
- Review by Stephanie Anne
“There are a lot of tough things covered in this book – teen pregnancy, racism, ableism, and sexual assault. THAT said this book is amazing and emotional and just captures your attention from page one. CC is a teen facing a world she doesn’t yet have the maturity to navigate easily, and watching how she handles everything will tug at your heartstrings. A great coming of age book for young and not so young adults alike.”
- Review by Liliyana Shadowlyn
“I enjoyed the time period (1964) of this novel – it’s important for young people to have options other than contemporary settings. The author has done a good job of tackling tough topics like racism, family dynamics, and teen pregnancy, and I really enjoyed many of the characters – especially Gran, Johnny, and Uncle Bud.”
- Review by Michelle Cornish
“CC’s Road Home is a good young-adult historical fiction book that offers readers a glimpse of the 1960s. While the book deals with many serious issues, including racial tension, young readers will enjoy the journey with the book’s main character, CC. Without giving away too many details, I can say the book is superbly written. Eskine captures the reader’s attention from the start and doesn’t let go until the last page.”
- Review by Karen Brown Tyson
“YA Historical Fiction is a step back in time that the youth of today need to be reading.
Set in 1964 when Elvis and the Beatles were hot, 16-year-old CC is exiled to her grandparents’ farm. Her mother has all but disowned her, she’s no longer attending school, and is ashamed of her past.
The farm life, however, is good for CC. She manages to make new friends and reconnect with family while finding her place in the world.
Like all teenagers, she has a lot of growing up to do that nothing but time will remedy. In order to find peace within herself, she will have to experience a few more hardships before she will see things more clearly.
With racial tensions, social pressures, and self-doubt, CC will find the courage to stand up for herself and to own her mistakes in order to grow as a person and find the home where she is happiest.
Dealing with some serious issues, this book handles teenage pregnancy, racial tension, and physical assault delicately enough for youths to read and learn from.
Leah B. Eskine’s debut is a dear story that I’m sure will be cherished by many.”
- Review by Kelly Srgoi
“The author did a great job describing the setting of the story which is the 1960s. While there are so many differences from that generation and today’s young adults, I think the readers will be able to appreciate some timeless values. Relatable and relevant, this story can capture one’s heart from the first few pages till the end.”
- Review by Rozelyn De Sagun
“Such a delightful historical setting for this book tackling the tough subjects! I thoroughly enjoyed both the 60s setting as well as the young adult challenges and decisions facing CC. CC’s Road Home is charming and the main character (young CC) is endearing though resilient. I loved every page of this expertly written novel and plan to read more books by the talented author Leah B. Eskine.”
- Review by Crystal Otto
About the Author, Leah B. Eskine
Leah grew up in small southern towns in Louisiana and Texas and moved to New Orleans in her twenties. She gravitated early on to teaching high school students and her stories are inspired by the young people she encountered. Her first novel CC’S Road Home is set to release in January 2021. Leah has written short stories and published articles in educational journals, but CC’s Road Home is her debut novel and explores the theme of the importance of family endurance in spite of great obstacles.
Leah lives with her best friend and husband, Paul, and their two rescue poodles. When she’s not writing, Leah enjoys country music, sixties rock, walking the dogs at dusk, lunch at neighborhood restaurants, movies, and reading – a lot.
— Interview by Nicole Pyles
WOW: Congratulations on your book CC’s Road Home. I loved hearing how you decided to write this novel, based on a conversation with your daughter. Can you tell us a little bit about that conversation and where your idea came from?
Leah: Nicole, it’s wonderful to have an opportunity to talk with you and your readers about my new novel, CC’S Road Home. You ask about a conversation I had with my daughter, Stacey. I gave her a copy of “Red Shadow,” a short story I wrote while in my critique group. She called later to say “Mom, I really like the story, but it reads like the beginning of a longer story. Maybe a chapter one.” I was surprised because I had been writing short stories and had not thought about writing a novel. It seemed like a daunting project, but as I thought about the possibility, I decided to give it a try.
Twelve-year-old Maggie is the main character of “Red Shadow.” At the time I’d been looking at WOW and Margo Dill was offering a class titled, “Write a Young Adult Novel” so I signed up and after working on a few chapters, I realized I wanted to work on an idea I had for an older character. Out of that process, sixteen-year-old CC emerged.
The story sprang from my years of teaching high school students and the opportunities I had to help them with issues confronting them. This idea coincided with a book I read years before, The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler. Her nonfiction book describes the heartache of girls and women who went two homes for unwed mothers and very often put the babies up for adoption. This of course was before Roe v. Wade when there were few options for unwanted pregnancy. Having spent a lot a time talking to young girls about the consequences of life after pregnancy, the story worth telling for me is how it feels for a teenage girl to have the baby, really, under any circumstances and try a live a normal teenage life afterwards. During pregnancy in the 50s and 60s, these girls were already treated as “bad girls” and then leaving a baby behind – people could be ruthless in their judgments. This was the story I wanted CC to tell.
WOW: That’s so incredible how all of this came about. I can’t help but be completely impressed by how you managed to write this novel with only one hand! How did you manage to do that?
Leah: You asked about my physical struggle in writing this book. Let me give you a little background. By early 2018 I had written 18 chapters of CC’s Road Home, but I had to undergo a shoulder replacement surgery in March. During that surgery there were complications and I suffered major nerve damage to my left arm and hand. I was left with a condition called wrist drop. along with very limited use of my left arm. Of course I was in physical therapy for the rest of the 2018 and had to undergo additional surgeries to try to repair that damage.
I’m left-handed. I could no longer write in longhand and could not type for risk of further damage to my hand. Wrist and arm supports were made for me by wonderful occupational therapists. I worked on the physical recovery full steam ahead while the thoughts of writing again were constantly on my mind. I tried using speech to text methods but writing fiction orally didn’t work well for me.
In December, 2018, I woke up one morning thinking about my main character, CC. I realized she was just sitting around in my desktop waiting for me. She had taken on that magical moment when a character comes to life, and I felt like I had abandoned her.
I spent the last few years of my teaching career working with students with special needs, always trying to help them figure out ways to get a job done – in the classroom or in the community. Next question for me – what would I tell myself? How will I get the job done? I returned to my desktop that day and stared at my computer.
I had nothing to lose, I started typing Chapter 19 with the fingers of my right hand. It was a “if they can do it, I can do it” moment. The work I wrote during this time needed a lot of revision but I stuck with it trying not to constantly make corrections, I told myself toot to keep going. Write. Create.
I finished my first draft the summer of 2019 and chose a wonderful editor to help me revise, rewrite, and edit towards a final draft in February, 2020. CC has been with me a total of five years starting with Maggie in “Red Shadow.” Some days at the computer she took on a life all her own. I wrote her story because it mattered, while the damage to my dominant arm and hand inspired me to continue my work, to never desert those things that matter. up.
WOW: You are truly an inspiration! This novel is based out of Louisiana and you have lived there for quite some time. Since you are already familiar with the area, did you do any research to make sure you captured the setting correctly?
Leah: I love living in New Orleans, and friends have asked why I chose a rural setting in north Louisiana to write about. I guess at heart I am a small-town girl. I grew up in small towns in the heart of Cajun country along Bayou Lafourche, went to high school in Gatesville, Texas while living with my grandparents, finished at a private high school in Metairie, La. and went to college for two years at Louisiana Tech in, you guessed it, Ruston. Those quaint little places run deep in my heart and mind. I love that living in several towns helped me to adapt to people and to write about them – Gran and Gramps, Johnny, Addy, Miss Eugenia, Uncle Bud, Miss Jessica, all are characters drawn from small town memories.
I still did some research. I wanted to capture those north Louisiana rolling hills and wooded terrain I describe, especially in CC’s ride to Ruston high School with Gran. I depended on my earlier life there, but looked at websites like Only in Louisiana which posts lovely photograms’ and descriptions of different areas of the estate.
But if you’re in Louisiana or most of the South, you must know about the heat! Summers are sweltering and humid. CC introduces the reader to this fact in chapter one where I describe the heat. “Hot was not a strong enough description. Sitting alone you could actually hear the heat – the distant buzzing of bees and muted chirping of daytime crickets. And the gnats! They were always there, ready to get in your eyes until you waved them away.” Hearing the heat! It’s so hot you can hear it. Part of living in Louisiana.
WOW: Well, you absolutely captured that area! I love that you set this book during the sixties. How did you capture the music and the historical moments that were happening throughout this character’s life during that time?
Leah: Nicole, I have to admit I lived during the sixties. And music by 1964 was such a part of life. Since my novel is historical, I made sure to go back and look at recording dates. Music connoisseurs know music better than me and are sure to challenge me on actual dates. For example, when I started writing CC’S Road Home, I was going to set it in 1963. I realized about one fourth through, that the Beatles arrived in America’s on February, 1964. It’s hard to write a novel employing 60’s music without talking about the Beatles. I couldn’t, but there was a wide variety in music and it wasn’t all rock. There was some Sinatra, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, The Miracles, the great B.B. King blues, and of course Elvis. At the swimming party in the middle of the book, the kids are still twisting!
After I turned to ’64, I researched racial tension in Louisiana and beyond. Dr. Martin Luther King relocated the movement further south, and I read about his work in St. Augustine, Florida. In Chapter three CC overhears the television reporter describing the sit ‘ins at counters at McCrory’s five and dime and Woolworth’s lunch counters in that city. I wanted to give the reader a feel of those news happenings. After Addy and CC are almost driven off the road while transporting a group of black children, Gran explains the seriousness of that situation to them and insists the sheriff press charges against the boys. A big deal in a small community at that time.
My subplots are also told from a historical point of view, Uncle bud’s brain injury and the family’s heroic support of him in spite of a lack of understanding; the sexual assault on CC and the tragedy of the secrecy surrounding that event; CC.’s struggle to understand the community’s attitudes towards race,; and her struggle to resume a normal teen life. All of the themes woven together as part of CC’s journey.
WOW: That’s an incredible amount of history you’ve captured in your book. 2020 has been a difficult year for many of us. You have been an example of triumphing over difficulty. What advice do you have for writers?
Leah: I practice the” no matter what” philosophy.
I had already been through breast cancer and all the treatments and surgeries in 1999 and 2000. We all have difficulties, and it is always how we handle them that is telling. Borrowing from Jeff Bridges in the movie, Starman, “You earth people are at your best when things are at their worst.” I never forgot the truth in that statement.
As writers struggling with motivation this year, I think we need to be mindful of the wonderful communities all over the internet who offered webinars and virtual meetings at nominal coast and free in some cases to writers to motivate and teach. Some groups started “writing spaces” on zoom or other platforms where individuals sat and wrote together silently, and shared as they felt the need. I found this to be a profound way to continue working.
I felt during this time that I was in a large community of writing caregivers, aimed at helping one another. Authors have spent time and energy writing books and can suffer the heartbreak of getting lost in this situation. Many writers held virtual presentations for book launches and salvaged the release of their books. A sense of community developed around these events and writers and their readers participated.
Bloggers, like you, Nicole, offered much needed advice and inspiration, not always about writing, but topics on health and nutrition, exercise, and especially what to do to avoid feelings of isolation.
And in the end, don’t give up. Inspiration evolves from never giving up, no matter what. That morning I got up and asked myself, “How will I finish this book?” started a whole chain of wonderful events in my life – the completion of the next chapter, the completion of the book, finding a publisher to look at my book, the day I saw my cover the first time, the time I opened a box and saw my book in print, and the looks of pride on my families faces when they showed them my work. None of this would have happened if I had not asked myself how can I write under these circumstances?
Looking back that morning was no different than any other. It started with that first sentence, certainly under different circumstances. But I still had to start – with that first sentence or group of sentences. It was a morning like others I have experienced – how can I write this morning? I don’t know what to write. But we sit, we start, we put a few words down, and often we create a paragraph, and then a page, and… you know the rest. It’s all about never give up. That’s where we get inspiration. The never give up attitude. No matter what.
WOW: I totally agree – never give up! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. Best of luck on your book!
***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****
Enter to win a copy of CC’s Road Home
by Leah B. Eskine by filling out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway ends December 6th at 11:59 PM CST. We will announce the winner on the Rafflecopter widget the next day. Good luck!
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