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New Release | The Key to Circus-Mom Highway by @CircusMomHwy #fiction #womensfiction #bookboost

Title: The Key to Circus-Mom Highway

Author: Allyson Rice

Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Women’s Fiction (not romance)

Publisher: The Total Human Press

Book Blurb:

In an attempt to secure an unexpected inheritance—and hopefully find a few answers—two estranged sisters and their newly discovered brother embark on a comically surreal trip through the Deep South to retrace the life of the mother who abandoned them as infants.

On a Tuesday afternoon, sisters Jesse Chasen and Jennifer McMahon receive a phone call notifying them that their birth mother has died, leaving behind a significant inheritance. But in order to obtain it, they must follow a detailed road trip she designed for them to get to know her—and that includes finding a brother they never knew existed.

For the next week, this ill-assorted trio treks across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia to meet their mother’s old friends, from circus performers to a juke joint owner, each of whom delivers a shocking vignette into the life of a young mother traumatized by loss and abuse. Along the way, these three siblings—Jesse, whose fiery exterior disguises a wounded, drifting musician stuck in a rut; Jennifer, whose carefully curated family life is threatened by her husband’s infidelity; and Jack, whose enigmatic Jackie, Oh! persona in the New Orleans drag queen scene helps him escape the nightmares of Afghanistan that haunt him at night—must confront their own demons (and at least one alligator). But in chasing the truth about their real mother, they may all just find their second chance.

This uproarious debut novel is a reminder that sometimes, the family you’d never have chosen may turn out to be exactly what you need.


Jesse climbed three flights of stairs, then unlocked the front door and entered Kyle’s third-floor walk-up. His studio apartment was about as nice a place as his dingy office, except for a few touches here and there that made it seem like a woman had at least attempted to make it better than a frat boy’s dorm room, Chicago Bears bedspread notwithstanding.

Jesse darted around the apartment quickly, gathering her things and shoving her clothes and personal items into an old canvas duffel bag that she pulled down from a shelf in the closet. Once the duffel bag was full, she supplemented with a few plastic grocery bags that she pulled out of a broken kitchen drawer. Her thoughts as she raced around -- ranging from anger at Kyle, to relief at being rid of him, to panic about where she could land next -- bounced around in her head like a pinball machine. While snippets of her phone conversation replayed in her head on endless repeat mode.

Kyle’s puppy, in a dog cage in the corner, watched her curiously, head cocked to the side, wagging his tail as Jesse hurried about, mumbling to herself. He was a mixed-breed puppy that Kyle said he found sleeping in the bushes outside their building. Though Jesse was pretty sure that was code for “I stole him from a neighbor who was distracted doing laundry in the basement.”

Kyle had grandiose plans to train it and make money in the underground dogfighting scene in their neighborhood. But since Jesse thought the sweet little thing might actually be part Golden Retriever and part Beanie Baby, she figured the odds weren’t good for the success of that business plan in the face of disgruntled Pit Bulls and Rottweilers.

Right on cue after Jesse mumbled to herself, “What am I forgetting?... What am I forgetting?” the puppy gave a tiny little yelp.

“Ohhhh, sweetie,” she purred at him.

She stood in the middle of the room facing the cage, conflicted, the two of them locked in a staring battle. The puppy won.

“Okay, I don’t know where we’re going to live, but I’m not leaving you here with that fucker. He doesn’t deserve you. Come here, baby,” she said as she set her bags down, pulled him out of the cage, and kissed him squarely on his soft, furry, blonde head. Then she set him down on the floor and picked up the dog cage. She carried it across the room where she proceeded to turn it sideways and dump the dog shit out of the cage and onto the center of the bed.

“Who’s the shitty lay now, Kyle?” she said to no one in particular.

Jesse walked back to the corner, set the cage down, picked up her bags and the puppy, and grabbed her guitar case that was leaning against the wall next to the front door. Then she walked out of Kyle’s place for the very last time, stealing his dog as she went.

Tuesday Evening

Jesse’s forty-one-year-old sister, Jennifer McMahon, lived in the perfectly manicured, upper-middle-class neighborhood of Glenview, Illinois with her perfect doctor husband Sean. Their perfect children, Connor and Maggie, were both attending their dad’s alma mater, Northwestern University. Though they lived on campus, they were close enough to bring their laundry home every week.

Glenview was a Chicago suburb where the inner-city problems a mere few miles away were like a story you read in the newspaper about some other country, and about which you could safely exclaim, “Oh, my goodness, that’s just awful!” while you finished your kale/banana smoothie and delightfully flaky almond croissant.

Geography was merely one item in the growing list of fundamental differences between the sisters. The scant two years that separated them in age was the closest thing about them these days. After years of Jennifer coming to Jesse’s rescue under the banner of “Oh, she’s just free-spirited,” Jesse’s increasing trouble over the last few years in terms of holding down a job, maintaining a stable living situation, and the need to be constantly bailed out financially had put intensifying strain on the already challenging relationship.

Jesse pulled up to the curb in her 1999 Alpine Green Dodge Neon, the left side of her front bumper tied on with nylon rope, with her stolen dog and all her earthly possessions in tow. She turned off the engine and tried to quell her rising sense of inadequacy as she stared at Jennifer’s fairytale, Brady-Bunch-on-steroids house.

She took a deep breath, looked at the puppy that was sitting on the passenger seat next to her cell phone, and said, “I’ll be right back. Don’t make any long-distance calls.”

She walked up to the front door, took another fortifying breath, and rang the bell. Jennifer, in all her straitlaced glory, opened the door and stared at her younger sister for what seemed to Jesse like fifteen minutes, but in reality, was probably more like ten seconds. Jesse ended the standoff by getting right down to the more pressing business at hand.

“I assume you got the same call I got,” she said.

“I did,” answered Jennifer.

There was another awkward pause.

“You gonna invite me in, Jen? Or should I just break into your neighbor’s shed, grab a lawn chair, and make myself at home here on your porch?”

Jennifer wrinkled her nose, sniffed, and said, “You smell like vomit and dog poop.”

“Yeah?” Jesse countered, “Well, you smell like judgment and superiority.”

No comment from Jennifer. Here we go again, she thought to herself.

Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):

Amazon book Link

Barnes & Noble book link

KOBO book link

Target book link

Goodreads book link:

Author Biography:

Allyson Rice is a writer, mixed media artist, and a producer with Atomic Focus Entertainment, currently splitting her time between Los Angeles, CA, and Rehoboth Beach, DE. She’s a graduate of Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. After spending many years as an actress on stage and on television, she left acting and spent the next decade running yoga/meditation.

n retreats, women’s retreats, and creativity retreats around the country. After that, she pivoted to focus on her own creative work. In addition to her writing and art, she’s also a photographer.

Some random bits of Allyson trivia: 1) She’s been skydiving, paragliding, bungee jumping, ziplining through a rainforest, and scuba diving with stingrays; 2) she has an extensive PEZ dispenser collection; 3) she played Connor Walsh on As the World Turns for seven years; 4) she’s been in the Oval Office at the White House after hours; 5) she’s related to the Hatfields of the infamous Hatfield/McCoy feud; and 6) her comedic rap music video “Fine, I’ll Write My Own Damn Song” won numerous awards in the film festival circuit.

Also available from Allyson is her line of women’s coloring books (The Color of Joy, Dancing with Life, and Wonderland), and The Creative Prosperity PlayDeck, an inspirational card deck about unlocking and utilizing your creative energy in the world. They’re available on She’s currently at work on her second novel and her fourth women’s coloring book.

Also, anyone who signs up for Allyson’s periodic author newsletter on will be entered in a drawing to have a character in her next novel named after them, and a free book will be given away in each newsletter to a subscriber!

Social Media Links:

IG @allysonriceauthor , @allysonriceart , @officialallysonrice

Twitter: @CircusMomHwy


1 Comment

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N. N. Light
Jan 03, 2023

Thank you, Allyson, for sharing your new release with us!

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