On the Jellicoe Road

Jellicoe Road is a fictional road inside the city of Jellicoe, Australia. The road is home to a boarding school, the home of Hannah Schroeder, and the 7/11 that Taylor Markham’s mom left her at when she was only eleven years old. When Taylor was left by her mom it was Hannah that picked her up and took her in as her own. Throughout the next few years Taylor is suffering through the pain of losing her mom, while also asking the questions, where did she go? And could I possibly find her? Taylor is not the only character in this novel to suffer through a severe tragedy; Taylor’s mom loses her husband, suffers from a drug addiction, and battles cancer; Hannah lost her brother to a hunting accident; there was a car accident in the beginning where multiple characters lost loved ones. This young adult novel by Melina Marchetta is riddled with searing loss, pain, but just a little bit of hope.

Starting with the tragedy that is Taylor. This is the only book from the semester that deals with orphanage. Taylor doesn’t understand why her mom left her, and doesn’t understand why Hannah, her only guardian, keeps her at an arm’s distance. Hannah’s house was never finished, which warranted Taylor saying that “Hannah’s house has been unfinished ever since I can remember. Deep down I think that’s always been a comfort to me, because people don’t leave unfinished houses” (Marchetta 22). She was scared that Hannah might not truly care about her. As far as she knows she’s expendable, if her mom left why couldn’t Hannah?? It was a comfort that the house wasn’t finished because in her mind it meant that Hannah wasn’t going anywhere. Later in the novel Taylor develops a relationship with Jonah Briggs, leader of the cadets, a group from a military school that trains in Jellicoe for a few weeks every year. There were parts of Jonah’s life that made Taylor’s look like a fantasy. His father was abusive to him and his siblings and it one day led to Jonah beating his dad in the hat with a bat, leaving him dead. This leads him to a life of guilt. “I loved him, you know” (Marchetta 179), he tells Taylor. It seems that the intense pain that both of them have suffered leads to their attraction to each other. They share a common tragedy that brings them together and eventually in search of Taylor’s mother. Jonah has an intense dream about his father that causes him to go home, leaving Taylor. Again she is left and feels disposable, causing her to despise Jonah.

This novel proves to be plenty of heartache and pain. It was hard to read as someone who hasn’t experienced anything like the book, so I can only imagine the impact it has on kids that see themselves in this story. However, it shows that there is something special in having people around you struggling in the same ways. Having people who understand you and care for you proves to be a source of healing. On the Jellicoe Road talks a lot about the search for a family, but not just a blood family, but others that Taylor can belong to. The language used makes it easy to put on the shoes of the characters and feel how they feel. “These people have history and I crave history. I crave someone knowing me so well that they can tell what I’m thinking” (Marchetta 201). The word crave is repeated here. She doesn’t just want someone knowing her well, she needs it. This is what drives her on her journey to find her mother. She craves it.

There are satisfying points to this narrative, Taylor does eventually reunite with her mother. As mentioned before there was an accident concerning some character in the book. This is where Taylor’s mom lost her parents and her little sister. It is also where she met the brother sister combo, Webb and Hannah. She ended up marrying Webb but after he was accidentally killed she couldn’t handle the pain. She got hooked on drugs and decided she was no longer fit to be a mother, and asked Hannah to take care of Taylor for her. Hannah agreed to take her in and also agreed to not tell Taylor the truth of what happened to protect her. This seems counterproductive as it caused a lot or hurt for Tylor, but when her mom was on her deathbed she was brought to meet her. Taylor gets to have a sigh of relief but it doesn’t undermine the amount of pain she experienced through her life. The book has a promising theme of even through the hardest times, it is important to have those around you who love you.

Works Cited

Marchetta, M. (2009). On the Jellicoe Road. Australia: Penguin Australia.

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