The library evening book group will discuss Ron McLarty's Traveler on Tuesday night at 7:30 pm. Traveler, actor and author McLarty's second novel, has lived up to expectations of readers and critics after his critically acclaimed The Memory of Running.
The plot: middle-aged and middling part-time actor and bartender, Jono Riley returns to his working-class hometown of East Providence, Rhode Island, when he hears of the death of Marie, a childhood friend. A bullet left in Marie's body after a random and unsolved shooting in her childhood traveled to an artery and killed her in her sleep. Jono travels home to find that his gang of friends, now dispersed or dead, have changed. Narrated in the first person, Jono's memories of growing up are interwoven with the present day trip. During his visit, Jono and retired policeman Kenny Snowden solve the cases of the unsolved shooting of Marie and several other local unsolved shootings.
The beauty of this book, as with Art in America, the only other McLarty novel I've read, is in the voice of the narrator. Jono Riley's story is told in a conversational style that just flows like someone who can hold a group of friends spellbound with his storytelling ability. The mystery in the plot certainly holds the readers interest, but I felt that the trip down memory lane, revisiting old haunts, remembering old friends from highschool, re-experiencing the old neighborhood and the remaining parents of old friends, all of these things most people will relate to. So many people leave home after highschool graduation and really never live at home again, that the experience of trying to recapture the old days is almost universal. I don't know how it feels to be one of the people who stay in the hometown, but for everyone else, the nostalgia that comes with leaving home will resonate.
Jono Riley after helping Officer Snowden uncover a cache of guns in the old priest's trunk wonders:
"Standing alone, some wind whipping around and gray clouds rolling in, I felt it seemed to be the perfect time to ask myself what the hell I was doing here. Rhode Island. East Providence. The bartender/actor sinking in memories and mysteries...I remain essentially a child of the working class, seeking at the very least a modicum of order." (158) Jono Riley decides he needs to go back to New York City, his girlfriend, his present-day life to get his life in order.