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The Travelers (2019)

by Regina Porter

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17710130,371 (3.64)3
"American history comes to vivid, engaging life in this tale of two interconnected families (one white, one black) that spans from the 1950s to Barack Obama's first year as president. . . . The complex, beautifully drawn characters are unique and indelible."--Entertainment Weekly "An astoundingly audacious debut."--O: The Oprah Magazine * "A gorgeous generational saga."--New York Post NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY ESQUIRE * FINALIST FOR THE PEN/HEMINGWAY AWARD FOR DEBUT NOVEL 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. Praise for The Travelers "[A] kaleidoscopic début . . . Porter deftly skips back and forth through the decades, sometimes summarizing a life in a few paragraphs, sometimes spending pages on one conversation. As one character observes, 'We move in circles in this life.'" --The New Yorker "Porter's electric debut is a sprawling saga that follows two interconnected American families. . . . Readers will certainly be drawn in by Porter's sharp writing and kept hooked by the black-and-white photographs interspersed throughout the book, which give faces to the evocative voices."--Booklist… (more)
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English (9)  Dutch (1)  All languages (10)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
** : Difficile de parcourir l'histoire d'un pays en 300 pages. Restent ces morceaux de vie qui se croisent. On parcourt le livre comme un album photos. C'est tendre, léger et bien écrit.
  Eliseur | Jan 2, 2021 |
I would have awarded higher but thought the plotting was eventually just too fragmented and the cast of characters too large. ( )
  adrianburke | Nov 1, 2020 |
A multigenerational saga is told through distinct tales of lives that brush against one another in a dance through time that will ultimately weave them into a family. With elegant writing and compelling characters, America is revealed in the breadth of their experiences, and the power of an individual to impact not only the lives they touch directly but also lives yet to be is explored.

CONTENT ADVISORY brief references to rape and police brutality, infidelity ( )
  Zoes_Human | Oct 25, 2020 |
This quietly spectacular debut novel revolves in concentric circles around two white families, two Black families, and the narrows where they intersect. Each chapter builds on the events and the meetings in both earlier and later times. The Vietnam war has its impact, as does infidelity, rape, domestic violence, and parental neglect, but the overwhelming atmosphere is simultaneously solemn and joyous. Settings are as varied as the Bronx, Portsmouth, NH, Berlin, and Buckner Co, Georgia. Characters range from James Joyce scholars to crabmeat pickers to a Black woman pilot. Each coincidence and unlikely meeting comes as a delightful surprise, and each chapter could stand alone magnificently as a short story on its own. A must read.

Quotes:" I remember how still the room was when he died. How the air just left him and there was no difference between his corpse and the metal bed that held it."

"It's like once he says he's leaving he's got to follow through and they are both stuck on stubborn." ( )
  froxgirl | Oct 15, 2020 |
First is a book published last year, Regina Porter’s The Travelers, which takes us from the 1950s through Obama’s first year as president.

Porter travels back and forth in time, and she helpfully lists the Cast of Characters and their relationship to each other at the beginning of the novel. At the beginning of each chapter she shares the year that chapter covers.

James Vincent Jr. is a successful Manhattan lawyer, who has a son by his first wife Sigrid. Sigrid takes their son Rufus and moves to California, and James remarries. He also has a son by his occasional mistress, but this is not acknowledged by anyone.

Rufus marries Claudia, a black woman, whose mother Agnes was traumatized as a young woman, which led her to leave home and marry Eddie, who ends up in Vietnam, serving on a naval ship with his cousins. The men make a decision on that ship that will haunt Eddie.

The character who interested me most was Eloise, who was in love with Agnes and devastated when Agnes rebuffed her. Eloise was obsessed with Bessie Coleman, a black aviatrix, and wanted nothing more than to learn how to fly.

The families’ stories intersect over generations, and it’s fascinating to see how Porter weaves all of her characters stories together and how strong the pull towards home is for all. I highly recommend it. ( )
1 vote bookchickdi | Jul 7, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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"American history comes to vivid, engaging life in this tale of two interconnected families (one white, one black) that spans from the 1950s to Barack Obama's first year as president. . . . The complex, beautifully drawn characters are unique and indelible."--Entertainment Weekly "An astoundingly audacious debut."--O: The Oprah Magazine * "A gorgeous generational saga."--New York Post NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY ESQUIRE * FINALIST FOR THE PEN/HEMINGWAY AWARD FOR DEBUT NOVEL 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. Praise for The Travelers "[A] kaleidoscopic début . . . Porter deftly skips back and forth through the decades, sometimes summarizing a life in a few paragraphs, sometimes spending pages on one conversation. As one character observes, 'We move in circles in this life.'" --The New Yorker "Porter's electric debut is a sprawling saga that follows two interconnected American families. . . . Readers will certainly be drawn in by Porter's sharp writing and kept hooked by the black-and-white photographs interspersed throughout the book, which give faces to the evocative voices."--Booklist

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