“Book Review: The Road to Delano”
Reviewed by Sam Cohen
A deeper look into the dark history of the American West in The Road to Delano
Part historical fiction, part mystery, The Road to Delano by John DeSimone is a whole reflection of the labor strikes organized by Delano grape growers during the 1960s. Jack Duncan, a high school senior, feels compelled to go to Los Angeles to leave the past behind him. While you may have seen a story like this before, The Road to Delano is layered and complex and much more than that. On the verge of pursuing his lifelong dream of becoming a baseball player, Jack is presented with startling new information that changes the course of his life forever.
Years earlier, Jack’s father mysteriously died in a car accident. His father, Sugar, was a grape grower on the precipice of turmoil. Since his untimely demise, Jack and his mother have struggled to stay afloat in the face of their emotional loss. They accept the circumstances of Sugar’s death until Jack discovers a file indicating his father had actually been murdered.
Upon this revelation, the book shifts gears and starts unraveling the mystery surrounding Sugar’s death and the ripple effect this has had on Jack’s family and Delano as a whole. Interweaving facts about the real-life Delano grape strike, author John DeSimone masterfully tells Jack’s story while painting an accurate picture of what the world was like for grape growers who wanted to make a change. Set in 1968, the events of The Road to Delano take place three years after the strike has started and one of the key players, Cesar Chavez, is introduced as a character in the book.
“In these quiet moments, he imagined the land calling to him. Did it matter anymore that all of it was gone?”
DeSimone is descriptive and fearless in his writing. He creates an honest portrayal of a difficult time in California history where countless people fought for fair working conditions and a decent life. Jack Duncan, his family, and the friends he encounters along the way represent the struggles faced by the Delano grape growers and the darkness that descended on this quiet west coast town.
For those who enjoy historical fiction that is as accurate as it is enthralling, The Road to Delano delivers on all accounts. It’s clear John DeSimone thoroughly researched his subject and did all he could to ensure that the story was indicative of this commitment to the truth. With nods to American pastimes and American dreams, this novel is an ideal deep read if you’re looking for something combining several enticing genres in one.
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Rare Bird Books
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