It's a tough life being an armadillo. If you manage to survive the blistering heat, thorny bushes and harsh terrain of your desert homeland, then protect yourself from your predators with your in-built armour, the chances are there's a great big 18-wheeler truck just over the horizon ready to turn you into roadkill on the asphalt. Nevertheless, against all odds, they survive.
The same could be said for fifteen year old Aggie. Despite her downtrodden 'sub' family existence, her absent mother and the long-term incestuous sexual abuse that she has suffered at the hands of her father and brother for as long as she can remember, she is a survivor too. Until one day, she decides that she doesn't want to take it any more and quite simply walks away. Texas is a big place so if you want to run away, it's easy to disappear into the landscape.
The story is a classic coming-of-age novel (although Aggie's childhood had already been ripped away from her years ago), with Aggie learning a whole new set of survival skills, meeting up with an eclectic and eccentric group of homeless people in a squat. She starts off as a streetwise but wide-eyed and naive young girl but she soon sees that other people have their own demons and hidden agendas. While running away gave her a chance to move on, her inner torment ultimately leaves her paralysed so she must go back home to find closure, even if it's not exactly what she had in mind.
Aggie is a wonderfully complex character, by turns incredibly tough and heartbreakingly fragile. The supporting cast of characters are pleasingly diverse too, although they do seem to fall rather too cleanly into good guys and bad guys. The descriptions of the places are so atmospheric that I could imagine the tumbleweed drifting across the dusty landscapes and deserted gas stations with a creaky sign - or maybe I've watched too many US road movies ! I could really see this being made into a film actually.
The tone and spirit of the book reminded me of American classics such as The Color Purple and I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, so I was very impressed to discover that the author is actually Scottish. This is her debut novel so I can't wait to see what else she will come up with in her future work.
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £8.99
Disclosure : I received a copy of the book in order to write an honest review.