I read it years ago, but I still remember it. It was a rare find for me -- a book about a black woman that even I could relate to. It was Trisha R. Thomas's first novel, Nappily Ever After, and it was a breath of fresh air (and reportedly being made into a movie starring Halle Berry), so I was happy to see that Ms. Thomas had written a second novel. The verdict? It's good, but not as good as Nappily Ever After.
Roadrunner is the story of Leah and Dell Fletcher. The two have been married for 15 years and have two children. Handsome Dell is a major league baseball star who had it all Ė or at least he used to, before suffering an ACL injury. After the surgery to repair the torn ligament in his knee, he became addicted to prescription painkillers. Between the drugs and the remarkable quantity of alcohol that he consumed, he began having mood swings and erratic outbursts. Outpatient treatment for his addictions didnít help. Before long, Dell, once nicknamed ďthe RoadrunnerĒ because of his legendary speed on the baseball field, found himself without a job. His team, fed up with his behavior, had bought out the rest of his contract.
Depressed and angry, Dell retreats further in into drugs and alcohol. When Leah finally tells him that he needs to choose between his misery and his family, Dell realizes that she means it. They fight. He loses his temper. He does the unthinkable. She has him arrested. And then Dell Fletcher disappears, leaving his wife, his children and his fans distraught.
Roadrunner was thoroughly entertaining , and the writing was clear and concise, though not especially distinctive. The major flaw, in my opinion is that the story didnít dig deep enough. At the end of the book, I still don't feel like I got to know Leah -- who she was, what motivated her. I knew the basics Ė married woman, half-black, half Asian, enjoyed having a job, even though she was rich, and very much in love with her husband, but fed up with his selfishness. Yet somehow, Leah still didnít feel like a three-dimensional character. Even worse, she didnít feel like a woman that I would want to know.
I was also able to guess where Dell had been after he "disappeared," long before it was clearly revealed in the novel, and I really, really wish that Ms. Thomas had concealed that from the reader a little more, so that it would have been more of a surprise. As it was, there was neither buildup nor shock when I learned where he had been.
But the portrayal of Angel Lopez, the police officer who arrested Dell on the night that he disappeared, made up for any other faults that I found. Why is it that the mysterious characters always seems the most interesting and the most human? In any case, at first Angel appears to be an honest, upfront, good guy Ė heís just a concerned police officer, looking out for a woman whose husband is missing. Heís made mistakes in judgment, but who hasnít? Right? But, bit-by-bit, you see how complicated and varied Angelís motives and intentions are. Thomas does a good job of getting into his past, his thoughts, his motivations, and his desires at a slow, subtle, and intriguing pace. The reader slowly comes to see that Angel Lopez just isn't quite right, even though he doesn't see that himself. Like all complicated characters, Angel finds his actions justified.
The best thing about this book: it isnít a frivolous, glamorous read. It raises some interesting, important questions about love, relationships, and forgiveness. And betrayal. This story has substance, and thatís something that much of todayís ďchick litĒ does not even aspire to achieve. I canít wait to read her next novel.