Highway Blue

A Novel
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A hypnotic debut of broken love on the run, from a blazingly original young writer

“A road novel, a love story, a coming-of-age tale, but with sentences so sharply wrought, characters so achingly precise, that it feels new and fresh and utterly alive.”—Lynn Steger Strong, author of Want

“In front of me the long length of the road wound out, wound out and wound on under hot sky. And I drove . . .”

In the lonely town of San Padua, Anne Marie can never get the sound of the ocean out of her head. And it’s here—dog-walking by day, working bars by night—where she tries to forget about her ex-husband, Cal: both their brief marriage and their long estrangement.

When Cal shows up on Anne Marie’s doorstep one day, clearly in trouble, she reluctantly agrees to a drink. But later that night a gun goes off in a violent accident and the young couple are forced to hit the open road together in escape.

Crammed in a beat-up car with their broken past, so begins a journey across a vast, mythical American landscape, through the dark seams of the country, toward a city that may or may not represent salvation. 

Highway Blue is a story of being lost and found—and of love, in all its forms. Written in spare, shimmering prose, it introduces the arrival of an electrifyingly singular new voice.


“This book combines the razor-sharp truth-telling of Ottessa Moshfegh with the troubled heart of Raymond Carver. I’ve never read anything quite like it.”—Emma Copley Eisenberg, author of The Third Rainbow Girl

“The richness and pathos of the ordinary is heightened by the private mysteries of McFarlane’s innocent fugitives as they run from both the law and themselves. It is a journey filled with unexpected kindnesses and the illuminating effect of transformation. I so admire it.”—Susanna Moore, author of In the Cut and Miss Aluminum

“A beautiful, sun-drenched road story . . . a novel that’s in love with the idea of America, both contemporary in its concerns and deeply nostalgic, full of Edward Hopper diners and faded blue jeans.”The Guardian (UK), 10 Best Debut Novelists of 2021

“Hypnotic, stylish, and cinematic, Highway Blue holds you captive, like a blues song or incantation.”—Olivia Sudjic, author of Asylum Road

“An undeniably talented writer.”Kirkus Reviews

“This novel will take you down darkened alleyways and along sweltering open highways. I loved this book—dark, glimmering, journeying deep into modern America on a knife edge between love and dependence.”—Rosie Price, author of What Red Was

“If one of America’s many complicated attributes is its ability to let whole lives pass without being seen, Ailsa McFarlane reminds us that language can bring these same lives into stark and penetrating relief.”—Lynn Steger Strong, author of Want

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