The Travelers by Regina Porter

The Travelers

Regina Porter

With piercing humor, exacting dialogue, and a beautiful sense of place, Regina Porter’s debut is both an intimate family portrait and a sweeping exploration of what it means to be American today.

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The adventures of two families unfold and intertwine through the decades in this astoundingly audacious debut” (O: The Oprah Magazine), “gorgeous generational saga” (New York Post), and “great, grand tabernacle of a novel” (Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Tinkers). 

Meet James Samuel Vincent, an affluent Manhattan attorney who shirks his modest Irish American background but hews to his father’s meandering ways. James muddles through a topsy-turvy relationship with his son, Rufus, which is further complicated when Rufus marries Claudia Christie.

Claudia’s mother—Agnes Miller Christie—is a beautiful African American woman who survives a chance encounter on a Georgia road that propels her into a new life in the Bronx. Soon after, her husband, Eddie Christie, is called to duty on an air craft carrier in Vietnam, where Tom Stoppard’s play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” becomes Eddie’s life anchor, as he grapples with mounting racial tensions on the ship and counts the days until he will see Agnes again.

These unforgettable characters’ lives intersect with a cast of lovers and friends—the unapologetic black lesbian who finds her groove in 1970s Berlin; a moving man stranded in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, during a Thanksgiving storm; two half-brothers who meet as adults in a crayon factory; and a Coney Island waitress whose Prince Charming is too good to be true.

With piercing humor, exacting dialogue, and a beautiful sense of place, Regina Porter’s debut is both an intimate family portrait and a sweeping exploration of what it means to be American today.

Advance praise for The Travelers

The Travelers is a great, grand tabernacle of a novel, under the roof of which it seems the entire history of the United States and all its people has been gathered into a single blazing congregation. It is full of tales tall and short, lives black, white, and every shade between, from the north, south, east, and west. None but the biggest-hearted, sharpest-eyed, most generous-spirited of writers could pull off a book like this. Regina Porter is some kind of visionary.”—Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Tinkers

Advance Galley Reviews

I must admit when I turned to the Cast of Characters page I thought I am not going to like this. I did not want to read a play or a story in a play format. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy a good play;however, my reading mood was not there. Then there’s this storyline that hops all over the place...aargh!!! At this time, I don’t want to work to read anything; I’m reading to escape, relax, and reset my gray matter for the next day. From the first page, I thought what in the world is going on with these characters. I have to read more because the family in chapter one is a real mess! What made them this way? What’s going to happen to this boy? What kind of person could he possibly turn out to be with parents that tell him crazy stuff like this? Each chapter/short story stokes the fire and leaves you wanting more. In a roundabout way, the author reveals how many of the characters are connected. The way she jumps back and forth on the timeline is apart of what makes this book work. She crafts this story in a way that you are always wanting more; you need answers. You have to really pay attention and have read that Cast of Characters list (don’t skip it). I did not want it to end...yes I had that impulse to swipe at the end hoping there were more pages along with that sad feeling you get when something great ends like a cruise, a three day weekend, or the last book or episode in your favorite series. Which is part of how I know that I truly enjoyed what I was reading.

This is an odd little book which strangely I enjoyed very much. I say strangely because the format is put together almost like short stories and I didn't think I liked short stories. I will also say I was immediately put off when I first opened the book to the enormous list of characters that is the first thing you see. I thought, oh no, I will never get through this. But, I just jumped into the reading and acted like I never saw that list. Each 'chapter' in the book is a short story of several characters lives between a certain time period. Each subsequent chapter draws into a deeper or parallel life of those characters through some type of familial relationship. It's like building a big family tree that I found really interesting.


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