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Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Report: Traveler by Ron McLarty

Sent to me by my dear friend Judy, Traveler, by Rom Mclarty is next up in my book reports.  Set in East Providence, Rhode Island the story follows a man as he goes home and confronts childhood events that have followed him well into middle age and learns the truth about what really happened all those years ago.
As mysteries go, this was an easy one to crack.  I figured out the "whodunnit" about 100 pages before the reveal.  The love story plots aren't really believable or sympathetic.  The disappearing priest plot line is so very meh.  The ending is predictable and not even very satisfying.
What I did like about Traveler is the overwhelming "Rhode Islandness" of the book.  Having lived in Rhode Island for nearly a decade it was fun to read about places, things and attitudes I know really well.  Blackstone Blvd, Riverside, NY System, the constant mob undertones, the beaches, the names, even the buildings at Brown University.  There is a comforting familiarness in all of those things and even after six years here in North Carolina I still miss a good Dells Lemonade and sometimes, yes, even a gagger. 
Rhode Island is a funny little place.  People don't leave.  They are born, grow up, go to school, get married, have kids and die all in the same neighborhood.  Of course, there are exceptions - I mean, of course people leave and of course new people move in, like I did.  But they're at a significant disadvantage.  How do you find your place in a world where everyone has known each other since their grandparents got off the boat together in 1890?  It takes time but eventually you do.
I still miss Providence.  I'd still love to go back.  North Carolina has been a fantastic place for us to live but it still hasn't felt like "home" yet.  Not deep down in my bones.  There is a culture here that I just can't get in sync with and, try as I might, I feel like an outsider looking in.  I'm befuddled by NASCAR, the love for the Confederate flag (I was behind a car yesterday that had FIVE different Confederate flag stickers on the back windshield), the southern redneck drawl (not the charming drawl, I do like that), the appeal of vinegar-based BBQ and the general love of red neck culture.
I've digressed into not the book, but if you're looking for a little piece of Rhode Island, Traveler is a great book to bring back memories.  Just don't go into it looking for a complex, intriguing plot.

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