Traveling Light: A Novel. Lynne Branard. Penguin Publishing Group. January 2017. 320 pp. ISBN #: 9781101989043.
Alissa has entered a rather strange contest to win a storage unit that has been abandoned. What she finds, ironically, doesn’t seem to surprise her. Instead she discovers the ashes of a deceased man, Roger Hart, and quickly decides she will return his ashes to his family or hometown. She also is in need of a change and this strikes her as presenting innumerable possibilities. No, it’s not the path most would take but it’s certainly an intriguing premise.
Little does she know that her eyes and heart are about to be opened, beginning when a strange young waitress, Blossom, decides to join her on the trip to Texas, as well as Alissa’s three-legged dog. They discuss families as they travel and Alissa gets to meet some unique characters, like Blossom’s Dad.
They meet fascinating people, some stereotypical, some odd. They learn to go with the flow of whatever happens, including when their car starts misbehaving and all of Alissa’s car education helps them figure out what it is but not be able to fix it without help from elsewhere.
Meanwhile the man who abandoned Alissa a few days before the wedding keeps calling her and trying to hook up again. But Alissa’s stronger, feistier and she’s not giving in to his charm. Add to that her own father is dating a woman thirty years younger than he is, with two small children. And Alissa makes it clear that she doesn’t want to take over the newspaper her father owns and for which she wrote for a long time.
What does she want to do? Repair a boat. “I don’t want to follow a script anymore…Everybody needs to listen to their own hearts…we should all decide on our own scripts.” It seems that Alissa has learned to allow life to happen to her instead of directing life along the patterns her family has always followed, even though she really didn’t mind those patterns until now.
This is a quite unusual novel that reminded me of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road story, even though it really isn’t like that for most of the story of Kerouac’s journeys. One even wonders if this change is because people are different in the West and the South. One thing for sure is that Alissa and Blossom’s story will have you nodding your head up and down and at times holding still while questioning what has always been accepted. What would it take for you to totally embrace life in different ways? Lynne Branard helps the reader to begin his or her own journey, if one dares!