In this literary novel centered on travel and the lessons we can learn from crossing borders with an open heart, Bryan, author of the Big thriller series, weaves an ambitious, globe-crossing narrative of interconnected lives and loves. At its heart is Skip Burton, prompted to reflect on his earlier life and the role that travel played in shaping him. At a young age, Skip proved an extremely reluctant traveler. As he grows and matures, spending time in Asia and Mexico, travel becomes a more permanent fixture in Skip’s life, helping him to build confidence as he opens up to new cultural experiences—and new people.
Bryan’s story springboards from a grabber of a question. Jenny, Skip’s late wife, had told Jen, their daughter, that, despite her years married to a traveler, she herself had never left the United States. A year after Jenny’s death, daughter Jen presents Skip with a photo of Jenny and Skip in Japan in 1974. Like Jen, readers will wonder why this was kept secret; the bulk of the novel, covering the journeys and connections made by Skip and his friend Maddie in the long-gone 1960s and 1970s, builds to the urgent, touching answer. Bryan charts his adventures abroad, eventually in the Volunteer Service in Asia, plus those of Skip’s Kansan-by-birth but Californian-by-choice VSA rival Rex, whose romantic travails eventually involve death threats in Indonesia. The final chapters, meanwhile, return to the bumptious circumstances of Skip’s early relationship to Jenny.
The result is a rich, often finely detailed mosaic of lives and longings, with multiple point-of-view characters and a recurring message of understanding. Some shifts in perspective and place can occasionally jar readers’ sense of where they are in the story, but throughout Bryan dramatizes the ways that cultural capital can help build lifelong connections that teach us how we deal with ourselves and those outside our experience.
Takeaway: This reflective, globe-crossing novel will please armchair travelers.
Great for fans of: Living on the Edge: Fiction by Peace Corps Writers, Greg Baxter’s The Apartment.
Production grades Cover: A Design and typography: A Illustrations: N/A Editing: A Marketing copy: A