Saturday, 15 February 2020

Mile Marker 139 by Cynthia Hilston

Mile Marker 139 by Cynthia Hilston
Published in America on the 13th December 2019.

One of my More Than One Challenge reads

At mile marker 139 along the Ohio Turnpike, a mysterious woman named Shelley Parkinson arrives at 3:14 at the rest area every night. She sits outside at one of the picnic tables, her fragile hands clutching one cigarette after another. Troubled people swirl around her, battling their own sorrows.

Gruff old janitor Mike Popkins works third shift at the facility and has been lost since his wife died, cutting himself off from his only son and going through the motions of his job. Idealistic young Sarah Wilcox whips up drinks at the happening new coffee shop at the rest stop, but her mind whips of dreams of traveling the world and living the life her late grandpa did as he drank a coffee on all corners of the globe. Heartbroken middle-aged trucker Russ Jacobs would rather spend long hours on the road than fall in love again. They all befriend Shelley. Each one desires something different, but none of them know why she haunts the rest area.

Unexpected death, disease, and accidents force Mike, Sarah, and Russ to make hard decisions to move forward, ripping them from their pasts. Can these three motley friends find healing in their own lives and help a woman who says she doesn’t need anyone, even as her brokenness spills onto them?

The premise of Mile Marker 139 really caught my eye when I was offered a review copy of this book and I am glad I took the chance of reading it. I previously liked Cynthia Hilston's historical fiction work, A Laughing Matter Of Pain, and think I enjoyed this new novel even more. The isolated rest stop setiing together with the four central characters and the conversation-driven narrative made me feel that Mile Marker 139 would also work very well as a stage play. I wonder if Hilston has considered this?

I loved the authenticity of the character portrayals throughout this story. Each of the four poeple is hurting in a different way, but their combined experiences show just how easy it is for people to slip through societal cracks into isolation and, for Shelley, homelessness. I appreciated the honesty of each story and especially how their intertwining never felt forced or overly convenient. Hilston obviously has a profound understanding of each of these people which enabled me to empathise with their situations and decisions.

I did wonder early on if Mile Marker 139 would be too long for itself, but actually found as the story progressed that this was not the case. I became more and more engrossed in the lives I was witnessing and almost felt, at times, like a fifth character at the picnic table. That Mile Marker 139 is a novel exploring very ordinary everyday lives belies its power because Shelley, Mike, Sarah and Russ are often the people we choose not to see or, at least, not to acknowledge. Indeed at one point, barista Sarah is described as simply being an anonymous smiling uniform in a transaction where a cup of coffee is the real focus. Hilston reminds us of the importance of human connections, of just taking a single moment out of our lives could make a huge difference to someone else who needed that contact. In an era where people are becoming ever more estranged from each other, I think Mile Marker is a timely reminder of where our lack of real life friendships could lead.

Meet the author   

Cynthia Hilston is a thirty-something-year-old stay-at-home mom of three young kids, happily married. Writing has always been like another child to her. After twenty years of waltzing in the world of fan fiction, she finally stepped away to do her debut dance with original works of fiction. Visit her website at for more information.

In her spare time - what spare time? - she devours books, watches Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, pets her orange kitty, looks at the stars, and dreams of what other stories she wishes to tell.

Author links: 
Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Instagram

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  1. Great review! It sounds like in the end this book was the perfect length for what you needed it to be, and like it did a great job of showing the characters and their relationships toward each other as well.

    1. I didn't really know what to expect from this novel and it turned out to be a treat :-)