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Month in review

Reviews
Are We There Yet? by Nina Laden
Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat
Cats on Track by Lisa Martin and Valerie Martin
The Easter Bunny's Assistant by Jan Thomas
Egg by Kevin Henkes
Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli and David Wiesner
The Ghost of Graylock by Dan Poblocki
The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown
The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan
The Hudson by Carl Lamson Carmer
Kitchener Waterloo: A Guidebook from Memory edited by Robert Motum
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
My Pet Human by Yasmine Surovec
My Pet Human Takes Center Stage by Yasmine Surovec
Over Easy by Mimi Pond
Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion
The Readaholics and the Gothic Gala by Laura DiSilverio
The 65-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton
Smoky Night by Eve Bunting
Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea by Robert Burleigh
Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence
Stop the Train! by Geraldine McCaughrean
Strangers on a Train by Carolyn Keene
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley
Traveling Light by Lynne Branard
The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh
Vampires on the Run by C.M. Surrisi
XVI by Julia Karr

Miscellaneous
Detour ahead
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (April 3)
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (April 10)
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (April 17)
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (April 24)
March 2017 Inclusive Reading Report
March 2017 ROOB and News
What's your earliest memory of reading?

Previous month

Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

Reading Challenges

My Kind of Mystery Reading Challenge 2017 February - January 2017-8



Traveling Light: 04/17/17

Traveling Light by Lynne Branard

As I am expecting to move this year — though where to or when hasn't been established, I am keeping my purchases of books primarily to ebooks. The exceptions to that rule have been books where I already own the others in a series (with the intent of donating the entire set when it's complete and I've read them all), or for graphic novels as they frankly are easier and more fun to read in print form.

Twice now in about ten days' time, I've broken that no hard copies rule, and both of them have been for road trip books. The first of those, is Traveling Light by Lynne Branard. I saw it on display while at a book store to get a PSAT prep book for my son.

What caught my attention? First, there's a VW bug (though the wrong make and color per the book) parked in an obviously New Mexican landscape. It has a title that immediately implies a road trip, and one that isn't thoroughly planned out (such as the memoir, Across the Continent by the Lincoln Highway. The New Mexico landscape implies a destination that's not the glamor of California, meaning there is some other goal in mind besides fame and fortune.

The big selling point for me, though, was that it is written by a woman with a woman protagonist, but the plot is something that one would see with if both were male. Meaning, the book wouldn't be falling into the "consequences for women" tropes. It's not that those tropes aren't valid, but it's also good to see books that push boundaries within the genre.

In terms of plot, Traveling Light is very similar to Driving Mr. Albert a memoir by Michael Paterniti about driving with Albert Einstein's preserved brain across the country. Here, it's not a brain in a jar, it's an urn containing the ashes of one Roger Hart, whom Alissa "Al" Wells has won in a bid for an unclaimed storage unit. Along with the urn, there's a business card for a mortuary in Grants, New Mexico — nearly two thousand miles west of North Carolina.

It's the first time in thirty years that Al has felt compelled to do anything. She feels like her life has been scripted since the death of her mother when she was five. She works for her father at the newspaper because it's what he wants. Now she has a new calling — returning Roger to his proper resting place, and it has to be done in person. Thus, Al and Casserole (her three legged dog) hop into her cherry red, 1998 VW and head west with Roger).

Roger from his very introduction is treated as a character — a traveling companion — even though he never speaks. This book doesn't indulge in magical realism or in flash backs. We never really get to hear Roger's side of things — just what Al and others imagine his reactions to be. Had it only been the threesome of Al, Cass, and Roger, Traveling Light would have been a good book.

But there is more — more tropes like you'd see in a male centric road trip. Al picks up a hitchhiker (a waitress named Blossom). She is very much like the character picked up in Road Trip by Gary and Jim Paulsen. Later, then, there's Blossom's ex-boyfriend, Dillon along for the ride. Again pretty standard, except that the driver in the this story is a mature woman and at no point is she every in danger during her trip. Branard further lampoons the masculine road trip tropes by having Al consistently misgendered as male by people who are following along on her journey through social media or via phone messages sent by her traveling companions.

Interestingly, Traveling Light falls mostly into the "There and Back Again" sub-genre. Al's journey is never going to be one-way. The road trip even ends before the novel does, with Al back at home in Clayton — to find herself changed and her friends and family different too in her absence. Like Bilbo in The Hobbit, Al's return trip bears little resemblance to the journey out to return Roger's ashes. While she leaves with companions and a trusty vehicle, she choses to return home as a hitchhiker (something either unheard of or exceptionally dangerous for most female protagonists). When asked about the trip home, she describes it as the most boring and sleepless forty-eight hours she's ever experienced.

Traveling Light along with Just Us Women by Jeannette Franklin Caines, shows that there is room for women in the fictional road narrative space, one where adventures can be had without a certainty of consequences.

Five stars

Comments (2)


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Comment #1: Monday, April 17, 2017 at 21:39:21

Elizabeth @ Silver's Reviews

Great review.

It was a good book.

Saw your return comment from the other post.



Comment #2: Monday, April 17, 2017 at 18:42:39

Pussreboots

Thanks! It was the perfect book for my spring break trip.