Book Details:

Book Title:  The Key to Circus-Mom Highway by Allyson Rice
Category:  Adult Fiction (18+) ,  270 pages
GenreContemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
PublisherThe Total Human Press
Release date:   Jan 3, 2023
Content RatingPG-13 + M because one of the characters swears a lot, and she drops some f-bombs. Also, there are short flashback scenes that reveal the mom's history and it includes rape (not graphically depicted in the novel)
Book Description:

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.
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Guest Post
Song List Inspired by My Book
I've put together a music playlist inspired by my novel, The Key to Circus-Mom Highway. I used to be a DJ for blues dancing events, but haven’t done that since before the pandemic, so this was FUN! Some songs relate to themes in the book, some relate to the characters, some I chose purely for the song title, and some of these songs are mentioned in the book. So the genres in this list are all over the place. Hopefully, it’ll make you a little bit curious...

 1)     KEY TO THE HIGHWAY by Luther Allison. (the original is by Big Bill Broonzy.) This song appears in the book in a flashback about their deceased mom (“I’m gonna leave here runnin’, cuz walkin’s much too slow.”) The book title is a play on this song name, so it’s the first on the list!

TOXIC by Britney Spears. This song is in the first scene of the book. It’s playing in the strip club where Jesse bartends, the dead-end job she leaves after that first scene.

NIGHTMARE by Halsey. This might be a good theme song for Jesse. It’s got a harder edge and it talks about going through difficult things in life. It’s defiant. (“I keep a record of the wreckage in my life. I gotta recognize the weapon in my mind”).

NEW BLOWTOP BLUES by Deborah Cox. For when Jesse gets the phone call about the death of her birth mom. (“I got bad news, Baby. And you’re the first to know.”)

I SMELL TROUBLE by The Ron Teamer Band. When Jesse shows up on her big sister’s doorstep needing a place to stay. Jennifer opens the door. Cue music. (“I smell trouble. Trouble just walked through that door.

I CAN FOLLOW THE RULES SONG by HeidiSongs (Heidi Butkus). I stumbled across this “indoctrination” song on YouTube when I was looking for a theme song for Jennifer, songs about always following the rules. It was created to teach young kids in school. I think this was probably Jen’s favorite song as a little girl! Lol

PEOPLE ARE STRANGE by The Doors. Chose this one mostly for the title, once Jesse and Jen start meeting the, uh, unusual cast of supporting characters.

YA YA by Buckwheat Zydeco. This song appears in the book when the sisters arrive in Thibodeaux, Louisiana. Harville Poupard is playing it as he cooks crawfish etouffee.

IF I COULD TURN BACK TIME by Cher. It’s in the book, playing in the club in New Orleans when Jesse and Jennifer walk in.

10)  JACKIE ONASSIS by Human Sexual Response. In the book– the first time they see their brother Jack. He’s onstage.

NEW ORLEANS BUMP by Wynton Marsalis. I could hear this fun instrumental play over the scene where Jesse and Jen are putting on disguises outside the club in New Orleans.

OLD SHOES (& PICTURE POSTCARDS) by Tom Waits. During the scene where the siblings are finally hearing part of their mom’s story and are looking through boxes of mementos. (“So goodbye, so long. The road calls me, dear. And your tears cannot bind me anymore. And farewell to the girl with the sun in her eyes…”)

SWEET THING by Rufus and Chaka Khan. This song is in the book in a flashback high school party scene about their birth mother in the ‘70s.

OUTTA MY HEAD AND BACK IN MY BED by Loretta Lynn. This song is in the book in a flashback scene about their birth mother in a Louisiana bar, also in the ‘70s.

ANGIE by The Rolling Stones. This song is in the book in a flashback scene about their birth mother, Angie Hartley. That’s all I’ll say about this scene…

MOTHERLESS CHILD by Bar Scott. For the scene with Jesse on the back porch in the middle of the night as she thinks about the mother she’ll never know.

BAD DREAMS (Stripped) by Faouzia. I came across this song looking for Jack’s “issue” song. OMG, what a VOICE this woman has!!

EVERY DAY IS A WINDING ROAD by Cheryl Crow. Because life is like a road trip.

TURN THIS CAR AROUND by the Boom Chicka Boys. Chose this solely for the title. Lol!

YOUR WIFE’S BEEN CHEATIN’ ON US by Little Milton. This song is in the book. It’s played in the juke joint.

HIT THE ROAD JACK by Casey Abrams & Haley Reinhart. I love this version of this song. For when Jack and Jennifer rescue Jesse.

I CAN’T MAKE YOU LOVE ME by Bonnie Raitt. This is in the book–Jennifer’s new ringtone for her husband.

BE MY HUSBAND by The No Shit Shirleys. When Jen opens up to Jesse about her husband Sean.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN by Willie Nelson. When their car breaks down and they get stuck in Milan, GA. (“On the road again. I just can’t wait to get on the road again”).

REDNECKER by Hardy. For Sy. ("My truck's louder than your truck/And my collar's a little bluer/You might think that you're redneck/But I'm rednecker than you.")

MURDERED BY LOVE by the Toler Brothers. For the Sy/Shailene/Jimmy drama.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE THEME SONG. This one’s in the book.

GEORGIA by Ray Charles. In the book–Westley’s doorbell.

WIPER BLADES by Zane Taylor and Andre Hando. Jesse sitting with Jack under a tree in the rain. (“You got me feelin’ some type o’ way. But I don’t really feel right today. We like to wipe away them tears and fears, like wiper blades.”)

BURY ME IN GEORGIA by Kane Brown. When they go to their mom’s final home.

YOUR MOLECULAR STRUCTURE by Mose Allison. A funny song for when Jesse and Lex hit it off. Foreshadowing for another novel? Hmm...

THE FINDING-MY-FAMILY BLUES written by… me! You won’t be able to find this anywhere. (Yet.) It’s just the lyrics that are written currently. The lyrics appear in the book, written by Jesse, about the road trip experience.


Meet the Author:

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 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 JoyDancing 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 her website 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!

Enter the Giveaway: