by Lee Henderson
All Wendy Ashbubble has ever wanted is to draw comics as well as Charles Schultz’s Peanuts—and to one day see her creations grace the pages of a major daily newspaper. Growing up in Victoria in the 1970s, Wendy dreams of getting out, getting away … and getting recognition for her talent. And there’s another, never-whispered motivation that prompts her to seek her fortune: a deeply buried memory and unshakeable belief that her unknown father is Ronald Reagan, the fortieth president of the United States.
A chance meeting in Victoria with an attractive-but-mysterious travelling artist inspires Wendy to take the plunge, and she runs away to live in a dilapidated artists’ commune in San Francisco. There, amid the haze of top-quality weed, unbridled creativity, and unfettered sex, her dream begins to take tangible shape. With the aid of Frank Fleecen, an up-and-coming bonds trader and agent, Wendy’s Strays are soon competing for newsprint space against the likes of Berkeley Breathed, Jim Davis, and Bill Watterston … even against Wendy’s beloved Charles Schultz himself.
But there are darker shades on the pencilled horizon: the spectre of AIDS, unexplained disappearances, bad therapy, junk bonds, demonology, and SEC agents investigating Frank’s business protocols.
The Road Narrows As You Go is simultaneously the portrait of a young woman struggling to find her place and a bright, rollicking, unflinching depiction of the 1980s. It embodies all the brash optimism and ruthless amoralism of the decade, as well as its preoccupation with repressed memories, and fully captures the flavour of an uncertain but deeply vibrant era.