Traveling Light: A Novel. Andrea Thalasinos. Tom Doherty Associates LLC. July 2013. 213 pp. ISBN #: 978076533025.
Paula Makaikis is a smart woman who has earned a Ph.D. and is now working at the Center for Immigrant Studies at NYU. She doesn’t really fit in with her colleagues who view her as in charge and yet odd. It’s fall and she’s feeling uneasy, restless, unable to concentrate on her work, and in obvious need of something she just can’t grasp. She’s also married to a brilliant astrophysicist who just happens to be a messy hoarder. So deep is his problem that Paula sleeps on a ratty couch at night because of all the boxes and notes on the side of the bed where she should be sleeping as his wife of ten years. Yes, once upon a time there was a brief initial fling of romance but now it’s an occasional Sunday afternoon coupling that seems more of a chore than anything – Paula’s description of it is quite blunt but laced with sadness and frustration.
One phone call dramatically changes it all for Paula. An old Greek friend, Theos, has become so ill it seems he is about to expire, and Paula’s friend, “Heavenly,” asks Paul to translate, neither knowing who this stranger is until Paula gets to the hospital. The one thing Theos can mutter is the word, “Fotis,” a Greek word for “light.” It turns out it’s Theos’ dog who is now Paula’s new mate, one she has much to learn about but who quickly becomes significantly attached to! She can’t bring him home because her husband, Roger, wouldn’t stand for it. So she decides to take an eight week leave of absence from work and heads out of New York City to visit an old mentor friend. The journey will be life-changing.
Before she arrives at her destination, she sees an ad for a job helping someone take care of birds. Intrigued, she calls for the job and is interviewed and accepted, with some unspoken reservations by Rick, her boss. Paula quickly falls in love with the area where she’s temporarily living close to the Canadian border. It turns out Rick owns a wild-life rehabilitation center where he takes in injured animals. Here Paula falls in love with injured eagles, foxes, and other animals. Her endearing Greek phrases she utters to these suffering animals calms them during their most discomfiting treatments and examinations. She gets to know the owner of the local IGA grocery store and Rick quickly recognizes her tremendous skill as his assistant.
Then Paula’s mother, Elena, comes to visit and her own journey in this small town is one of healing and awakened joy. Elena shares a stunning secret with Paula that further changes her vision of the past and future. A trip back to New York to honestly assess the situation with Roger provides all she needs for the future.
Traveling Light: A Novel is a beautiful story about facing the truth, what can be accepted and what cannot be endured, how important it is to follow one’s true career, and a natural love and respect for nature that is more important than any intellectual endeavor. There’s something for everyone’s life journey, something worth passion and commitment. Sometimes one has to let go to truly live!
Lovely, beautiful, and honest contemporary fiction. Nicely done, indeed, Andrea Thalasinos! Highly recommend this novel for those who love a good story about what really matters!