One and Only: The Untold Story of On the Road

By Gerald Nicosia, Anne Marie Santos

176 ratings - 4.07* vote

Lu Anne Henderson was a beautiful 15-year-old girl in Denver in 1945 when she met Neal, a fast-talking hurricane of male sexuality and vast promises. The two married, and soon they were hanging out with a group of would-be writers, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Lu Anne became the secret link between Kerouac and Cassady, helping to ignite the Beat Generation, a Lu Anne Henderson was a beautiful 15-year-old girl in Denver in 1945 when she met Neal, a fast-talking hurricane of male

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Book details

Hardcover, 242 pages
November 22nd 2011 by Viva Editions

(first published November 1st 2011)

1936740044 (ISBN13: 9781936740048)
Edition Language

Community Reviews

Jeff Tucker

After reading ‘On the Road’ by Jack Kerouac I read everything I could find about the people involved in the so-called beat generation. I read biographies of Kerouac and Neal Cassady, autobiographies by Jack’s daughter Jan Kerouac, Neal’s wife Carolyn Cassady and Kerouac’s wife Joan Haverty and many more. But I could never find anything about Lu Anne Henderson. Lu Anne was 16 when she married Neal Cassady and she was the third person in the car during the famous road trip in ‘On the Road’. So I was thrilled when I found out that Gerald Nicosia and Lu Anne’s daughter, Anne Marie Santos, had written a book about Lu Anne.
I think the only reader who would get much of anything from this book is a reader like myself who has become familiar with the lives of all the other players and who is curious about Lu Anne’s story. Most of the book is a transcript of an old tape of Lu Anne’s version of the story of ‘On the Road’ that was made by Nicosia many years ago when he was doing research for his biography of Kerouac. That part of the book is really just the same story of ‘On the Road’ but told from Lu Anne’s perspective. There’s really very little there that we didn’t already know and it’s not told terribly well. That part of the book probably deserves two stars. The last two chapters of the book are told by Al Hinkle, who was a good friend of Neal and Lu Anne, and Lu Anne’s daughter, Anne Marie Santos. I’m giving the book four stars because of those two chapters. Finally, in these last two chapters, we find out where Lu Anne has been all these years and how her life turned out. In my opinion Lu Anne lived a much more interesting, although difficult, life than either Jack Kerouac or Neal Cassady did. Apparently Lu Anne was able to always be loving, caring and optimistic through the good times and the tragedies in her life while her male counterparts, Jack and Neal, gave up hope and both died relatively young, angry and disillusioned. I’m so glad that the authors have finally decided to tell Lu Anne’s story.

Christopher Newton

Saddest damn book I ever read. Tears were rolling down my face at the end at the sad fate of Jack and Neal -- Jack turned into a hopeless alcoholic calloused over and trying to feel nothing inside, and Neal transformed from American legendary living hero into Ken Kesey's dancing bear.

And it was caused by Jack's genius. That the horrible irony. The better he wrote,the worse their fates would get.

The book is based a long interview with LuAnn Henderson (the Mary Lou of the story)and remains true to its origins. It's spoken in her voice. She skips around and doubles back to thoughts she's already had like real people do. And she's retelling a story On The Road readers already know very well, but from her woman's perspective.

LuAnn went through four husbands herself, became a junkie for a while but cleaned up, ran nightclubs in North Beach San Francisco, had a whole big life of her own. She maintained a friendship with them both to the end and tells the tragic story of their decline as she saw it. Her daughter writes the last part.

It's just a heartbreaking book, but essential to anyone who has been affected by Kerouac's writing.
I'm still sort of stunned this morning. But it's a good stunned.


Headline: Menage a trois: the lady in the middle
"We'll be together, you are my one and only wife." –
Neal Cassady in a letter to LuAnn.

Lu Anne Henderson was a beautiful 15-year-old girl in Denver in 1945 when she met Neal Cassady, a fast-talking hurricane of male sexuality and vast promises. The two married, and soon they were hanging out with a group of young would-be writers, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. But Neal and Jack initially didn't like each other very much. Lu Anne ended up loving them both, and she taught them how to love each other - in effect, making the Beat Generation possible, as well as giving Kerouac material for one of the seminal novels of the 20th century, On the Road. One and Only traces the immense struggles of Lu Anne's own life, which ranged from the split-up of her family during the Great Depression, to the ravages of abusive men and the grief of losing the two most important men in her life; and shows how her life intertwined with Jack's and Neal's to the very end.

As a reference to my review headline - the ménage a trois you're probably thinking about is the suggested threesome between Neal Cassady, Lu Anne and Allen Ginsberg...but then, it could also mean the threesome between Neal, Lu Anne and Jack Kerouac. Talk about a love dodecahedron.

On the Road, by Jack Kerouac, is one of the cornerstones of modern literature. What gets me is that compilations or literary Beat collections - it's the boys who get all all the press. What i loved about this book, was that I got to really hear the voice of Lu Anne, the inspiration for jailbait-esque MaryLou in On the Road. Oversexed, undereducated martyr with daddy issues? Or...selfless muse with the penchant for a bit of masochism? The book chapters alternate between interviews with real life Lu Anne (at her deathbed), her daughter, and biographer Gerald Nicosia.

I love books like these because it absolutely belongs within an entire web of information - this could be your own private literary investigation. You should definitely start by checking out On the Road, by Jack kerouac. Then maybe following up with The Beats : from Kerouac to Kesey : an illustrated journey through the Beat Generation / Mike Evans - this book changed my perspective of poetry when I was 13. I know k-Stew has been making the headlines for well, being a bit of a lemon tart... Do I like that she plays MaryLou aka Lu Anne, in the movie biopic On the Road which has just hit the cinemas? Possibly not. But it is definitely worth the watch. Try not to consume too many fluids before the is LONG. Finally, finish with a perusal of the famed poem Howl by Allen Ginsberg. Beat poetry and snooping into the lives of Beat poets is an obsession of mine. Even if you don't appreciate it as an art form, you will be affected. Danny, my long-suffering other half who hates most of my 'arty farty' movie picks, said he left the movie feeling sort of like someone strangled and then chopped up a fluffy bunny in front of him. Oh oh oh...and because everyone loves a good catfight - check out Off the Road - the other story by the OTHER woman, Carolyn Cassady.

Beat fans, literary nerds, snoopsa: this is for you. The only hiccup for me is I feel that the heavy matters were glossed over There was a bit too much of this c'est la vie attitude, which is quite un-beat. I wanted to hear more gritty details about Lu Anne's subsequent 3 failed marriages and simultaneous tragic reunions with Neal. But otherwise, I really wish Lu Anne was still alive. I'd totally follow her on Twitter.

Nate Jordon

One and Only is the essential, long-missing tale of the young woman who captured the hearts of Cassady and Kerouac when they first got on the road. Though the bulk of the book is an edited transcription of a seven-hour taped interview Henderson offered Nicosia, Nicosia does offer his unique insights into the psyches and emotions of the key players of the Beat Generation. It’s a must-read for any Beat fan.


Here’s a significant archaeological discovery of the recent past. Gerald Nicosia, in 1978, met and extensively interviewed Lu Anne Henderson, a character in On the Road. (Kerouac called her Marylou.) She’s an intelligent woman with a high school education, whom Nicosia calls a saint. Now I’m rethinking the Beats.

Maybe the women are, really, at the center of the story? It’s easy to be a self-assured semi-criminal hyperactive “con artist”. (That’s the term Gerd Stern used to describe Neal Cassady the other day, and he knew him!) It’s more difficult to be the girl who loves Neal, steals for him, comforts him in his despondencies. According to this book, Neal and Jack Kerouac – two egoistic men – mutually disliked each other at first meeting. It was Lu Anne ¬who pulled them together.

Kerouac’s book is the story of very young people who keep changing their minds – for one simple reason: they love each other but are too crazy to settle down. The three protagonists of On the Road – Jack, Neal, and Lu Anne – in fact, never really found stability. She had three husbands and ended up finally alone, Jack had the same number of wives, but his mates seemed more like caretakers than lovers. Neal had two wives and innumerable girlfriends, and perished in Mexican solitude. Lu Anne, this book implies, was the wisest of the three.

One and Only is based on two conversations Gerald Nicosia had with Lu Anne in 1978, when she was a heroin addict in Daly City, California. She comes across as a working-class intellectual, an amateur psychologist, in love with writers and jazz musicians.

I never had this experience before, but I fell in love with the woman reading the audiobook: Vanessa Hart. Her voice is sexy, wistful, full of turquoise inflections.

Shawn Fairweather

Truly one of the saddest books I have read in a long time. On the Road is undoubtedly my favorite novel of all time, and it greatly saddens me that the basis characters who I grew to love and appreciate essentially became self destructive and defeating though out the years following publication. Lu Annes reflection of the two of the main instruments of the Beat Generation in Jack and Neal tells the story of two care free live life to the day types that let there free living tendencies fall to the side and allowed reality that most faced finally set in…one that they were not prepared to deal with. Two individuals that gave the appearance that they had their versions of life all figured out when in reality the opposite was true and were truly flying by the seat of their pants until life finally caught up to them. Many times this case was truly unfair, in other situations they should have known better, but in the end, One and Only delivers a portrait of their demise set forth by the memoirs of a young 16 year old girl that was willing to travel the world with these two individuals. The breakdown is tough, the thrills and adventures will cause jealously, but the reality is simple, reality is not always what is beautifully portrayed.

On another note, those who take on the feminist agenda need to take note that the actions carried out in this period piece do not reflect modern times, so to hold them accountable to what is deemed acceptable and not acceptable today is quite unfair.


Reading this after finishing a re-read of On the Road was one of the best decisions I ever made in my reading life.

Reading On the Road one can't help but thinking: What was going through that girl's head? What drew her in to that crazy, high strung crowd?...Well, this book has the answer. In the words of Lu Anne Henderson "Marylou" herself.

Lu Anne was fierce, she was larger than life, and getting to understand her was absolutely wonderful. As a young, relatively-sheltered, woman I can't help but to marvel at her independence and zest for life. She wanted to live and to love and that's what she did, she went for it! How many of us can say the same?

Absolutely loved reading the bits about shooting the movie and all the many wonderful people that were involved in it. I have high hopes that it will acurately portray the journey that inspired generations.


Great book expounding on the sensitive and emotional lives of the Beats not told in any other book. LuAnne Henderson's (MaryLou in On The Road) story as told by her through Gerald Nicosia finally comes to light.


Essential reading alongside "On the Road." There are many shocking secrets that will amaze BEAT aficionados!

Joel Eis

Review of: One and Only, The Untold Story of ‘On the Road’, (Gerald Nicosia & Anne Marie Santos, (Viva Editions, Cleis Press, Inc., Berkeley, 2011)

I have just finished Gerald Nicosia and Anne Marie Santos’ One and Only and must share my reaction. In a panorama of works of homage and exposé of the characters in the Beat Generation, these authors find an unsung hero and lets her tell her untold story. The book is a laying out of interviews with and from Lu Anne Henderson, the young wise-beyond-her-years companion of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady on their famous journey across America and through the middle of a century-in-chaos. They stand back and lets Lu Anne’s voice ring clear in what she says about herself and the characters in that legendary time.
One and Only, The Untold Story of ‘On the Road’ fills out the characters who energized and reinvented the American literary sensibility in the mid-twentieth century. This is not small accomplishment. So much has been written, mis-written, and contorted in film, about these disarmingly obsessed personae, that finding a soberly told tale that frames any one of them humanely is a very rare treat.
Nicosia and Santos facilitate the voice of their subject with two major interviews and discreet commentary. The rendering of the intermediary material is almost seamless in keeping the intimate personal tone to the book. The result is an engaging and thoroughly luminous work. Though, as Gerald points out, Lu Anne was not an educated woman, the book highlights her inherent depth of perception, shared poetically in her own way.
Just buy it. Plan to share it. Buy two copies.