Excerpt from Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Solace of the Road

By Siobhan Dowd

Solace of the Road
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2009,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2011,
    272 pages.

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‘Yeah, what news, Miko?’ I asked, not really interested, and Trim smashed his fist to within an inch of my nose.

Miko jerked his head, meaning ‘outside’. So I left Kate W running down the ship’s corridor and followed Miko out to the little staff office with all the files. The files were lined up in grey boxes and each person’s name was on at least one box, and the longer they’d been in Templeton House the more boxes they had. I had six boxes, more than anyone.

Miko sat on the swivel chair. I sat on a wooden fold-up chair by the window and rested my trainers on the edge of the litterbin. You could see the garden from there and it was grey and brown and dripping, which was fine. I was smiling, thinking how if I was Kate W with the axe I’d have gone for the creepy man who wants to marry her.

‘Holly,’ Miko said.

‘Yeah. What?’

‘Do you want to know what’s new or not?’

‘Whatever.’

‘It’s a placement prospect, Holly.’

I shrugged. I’d heard that one before. It never came to anything.

‘It’s just what you wanted. Nice-sounding couple. No kids.’

He was grinning ear to ear like I’d won the lottery. I reached over and got a scrunched-up ball of paper out of the bin and dropped it from one hand into the other.

‘You’re in serious luck, this time,’ Miko said.

‘Oh, yeah?’

‘Honestly. I’ve chatted it over with Rachel.’ Rachel is my social worker, which is different from a key worker. A key worker lives part-time in the Home with you and the social worker just works nine to five in an office, same as anyone.

‘She’s met them and she thinks they’re really good people,’ Miko was going.

Good people. I put a finger in my mouth, down my throat.

‘OK. Nice people. They have a very pretty house. Victorian and all done up. You’d have a room all your own. And like I said, no kids.’

‘Are they Irish?’ I said.

‘Hey?’

‘Grace only has black placements. So I only want Irish.’

‘C’mon, Holly. Their name’s Aldridge. Which isn’t very Irish. But most English people have a bit of Irish somewhere – it’s a fact.’

‘Huh.’

‘So?’

‘So what?’

‘What d’you think, Holly?’

I threw the paper ball right at Miko but instead of it hitting him in the nose like I’d intended, he caught it real fast.

‘That’s what I think,’ I said. ‘Crap-ville.’

Miko threw the paper ball right back at me and I hit it back and we volleyed it around some and then he headed it straight back into the litterbin.

‘Aw, Holly,’ he said.

‘Aw, Miko,’ I said. I couldn’t help smiling. Miko was the best footballer I knew not signed up professional. ‘I don’t want a placement,’ I said. ‘I like it fine here.’

‘But school, Holly. You never go. With the Aldridges you’d start fresh at a new school. A better school.’

I looked as if to say Throw me another lemon.

‘Holly.’ Miko’s voice went quiet.

‘Yeah?’

‘Don’t pass this placement up on my account. Will you?’

I got the zipper of my sweatshirt and gave it a yank. ‘Ha ha. As if.’

‘Because, Holly, there’s something I want you to know.’

‘Yeah, what?’

‘I’m leaving here.’

There was a long silence. I turned back to the window and watched the raindrops cruising down like ants on a doomed mission. ‘Leaving?’ My voice felt small. ‘What d’you mean, leaving?’

Excerpted from Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd. Copyright © 2009 by Siobhan Dowd. Excerpted by permission of David Fickling Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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