Review: The Road to Delano, by John DeSimone

With apologies, this was supposed to post yesterday, and something went wrong with WordPress, so I’ve posted it today, April 7.

About the book The Road to Delano

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Rare Bird Books (March 10, 2020)

The-Road-to-Delano-coverJack Duncan is a high school senior whose dream is to play baseball in college and beyond?as far away from Delano as possible. He longs to escape the political turmoil surrounding the labor struggles of the striking fieldworkers that infests his small ag town. Ever since his father, a grape grower, died under suspicious circumstances ten years earlier, he’s had to be the sole emotional support of his mother, who has kept secrets from him about his father’s involvement in the ongoing labor strife.

With their property on the verge of a tax sale, Jack drives an old combine into town to sell it so he and his mother don’t become homeless. On the road, an old friend of his father’s shows up and hands him the police report indicating Jack’s father was murdered. Jack is compelled to dig deep to discover the entire truth, which throws him into the heart of the corruption endemic in the Central Valley. Everything he has dreamed of is at stake if he can’t control his impulse for revenge.

While Jack’s girlfriend, the intelligent and articulate Ella, warns him not to so anything to jeopardize their plans of moving to L.A., after graduation, Jack turns to his best friend, Adrian, a star player on the team, to help to save his mother’s land. When Jack’s efforts to rescue a stolen piece of farm equipment leaves Adrian?the son of a boycotting fieldworker who works closely with Cesar Chavez?in a catastrophic situation, Jack must bail his friend out of his dilemma before it ruins his future prospects. Jack uses his wits, his acumen at card playing, and his boldness to raise the money to spring his friend, who has been transformed by his jail experience.

The Road to Delano is the path Jack, Ella, and Adrian must take to find their strength, their duty, their destiny.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Rare Bird Books | Goodreads


About the author, John DeSimone

John-DeSimone-APJohn DeSimone is a published writer, novelist, and teacher. He’s been an adjunct professor and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. His recent co-authored books include Broken Circle: A Memoir of Escaping Afghanistan (Little A Publishers), and Courage to Say No by Dr. Raana Mahmood, about her struggles against sexual exploitation as a female physician in Karachi. His published novel Leonardo’s Chair published in 2005.

In 2012, he won a prestigious Norman Mailer Fellowship to complete his most recent historical novel, Road to Delano. His novels Leonardo’s Chair and No Ordinary Man have received critical recognition.

He works with select clients to write stories of inspiration and determination and with those who have a vital message to bring to the marketplace of ideas in well-written books.

Connect with John:

Find out more about John at his website, and connect with him on Instagram.


My Thoughts

MissMeliss2020The Road to Delano is novel, but it’s based in truth even if the characters aren’t all based on specific real people, and John DeSimone has written that truth in a way that is vivid and cinematic, while still being emotionally real.

While I’m not a lifelong Californian like the author, I did spend my teen years in the San Joaquin valley, in Modesto and Fresno, and while those years were in the 80s, not the 60s, I remember all too well the news coverage of Cesar Chavez’s last hunger strike – the one that was contemporary to my life – as well as picket lines at grocery stores. To this day, I feel guilty whenever I buy grapes.

It is for that reason that this novel gripped me so much. I knew the vagaries of the United Farm Workers’ battle for basic rights and fair work conditions, but I didn’t have a real connection to it. This book gave me that. It gave me context. It gave me a better sense of the history of central California. And, by framing the story as a novel, it also gave me just enough distance that I didn’t have to clench my fists, or walk away from the text and cool down before going back.

As the daughter of activist parents (my parents formed the Amnesty International chapter in Modesto when I was twelve or thirteen), I really appreciated some of the cultural touchstones that DeSimone worked into his story. As someone who grew up with Joan Baez’s music (my Mom was a fan) and later got to meet her (she came for a benefit and slept in a sleeping bag on our floor!) the scene with her singing “Blowin’ in the Wind”  – even though it wasn’t a scene of terrible importance to the plot – really made me feel like I was in the book, and not just reading it.

That was made easier because of DeSimone’s deft use of dialogue. (I hadn’t realized the word “bitchin'” was quite that old – I thought it was from my generation). Similarly, his characters, especially Jack, Adrian, and Ella – but also the growers, the families, the other members of Jack and Adrian’s baseball team – were dimensional. These were not real people, but they easily could have been, and they certainly felt real.

If you’ve ever heard the name “Cesar Chavez” and wanted to know the context of his fight, if you’ve ever seen people protesting the sale of grapes, if you’ve ever heard the song “Deportee,” or even if you’re just vaguely familiar with the plight of farm workers in America you will find value in this novel. But even if you’re just picking it up because it seems interesting, it is a worthy read, and an important story.

Goes well with beer and tacos. Because I needed both after finishing this novel.


Tour Stops TLC BOOK TOURS

Tuesday, March 10th: Instagram: @jenabrownwrites

Wednesday, March 11th: Run Wright

Thursday, March 12th: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, March 12th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, March 13th: Orange County Readers

Monday, March 16th: BookNAround

Thursday, March 19th: Girl Who Reads

Friday, March 20th: Broken Teepee

Monday, March 23rd: Audio Killed the Bookmark

Wednesday, March 25th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, March 27th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Monday, March 30th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, March 30th: Life By Kristen

Monday, April 6th: Bibliotica

TBD: Thursday, March 26th: Wellreadtraveler

 

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Review: The Road to Delano, by John DeSimone by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

2 thoughts on “Review: The Road to Delano, by John DeSimone

  1. Pingback: John DeSimone, author of The Road to Delano, on tour March 2020 | TLC Book Tours

  2. I have wondered about the protesting over the sale of grapes because it seemed like such a random, odd thing to be upset about. I definitely need to check this one out! Sara @ TLC Book Tours

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