Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Traveler by Ron McLarty

This is Ron McLarty's second novel after his stellar debut The Memory of Running.

Traveler is a mystery that reads like a memoir. The main character, Jono, is an off-off-broadway actor by day and a bartender by night - another sympathetic, average-guy creation for McLarty. Also, again, McLarty uses his reflective protagonist to explore the themes of damage, death and loss which were suffered in the past and are now popping up in the present. This time, the hero receives notice that a beloved childhood friend, really the sister of a friend, has died as a result of a "traveler," a bullet she received as a child that lodged in her body and allowed her to grow into a mature adult before slipping through an artery and killing her.

So then, who shot and ultimately killed Marie? Was it one or more of the juvenile neighborhood thugs and bullies, or someone closer to home? What connection does Marie's death have to several other murders and disapperances in the area? Jono will have to return to his old haunts to find out.

For the second time around, there is a subplot that centers around a romantic relationship, yet this time the love interest has been demoted to a less-than-necessary role; I would've liked to see more involvement, more correlation of present with past.

Overall, McLarty again handles his themes well by engaging the reader with both his characters and scenarios. While this new character is not quite as uplifting or dynamic as the first, Traveler is a good, solid read that will leave you satisfied.

7 comments:

Julie said...

Are you planning on reading McLarty's 3rd novel, Art in America? So far, I've noticed it has received mixed reviews. I'd be interested to read your review about it if you decide to read it.
On a side note, I googled McLarty just for fun and noticed he's also an actor. I probably saw him in the episode of The Practice and a Donald Trump Movie he was in I remember watching a long time ago.

hamilcar barca said...

is the premise real? can you have a bullet in you (that presumably the doctors know about) that will migrate around until many years later, it eventually ruptures something vital?

Amber said...

Julie, I hadn't heard about the new novel! I probably will give it a look. Thanks for the heads up!

Hamilcar, I don't know if it's true but it sounds true. Also, if you read A Separate Peace in high school like I did, didn't one of the characters die from a shard of bone that migrated?

I don't like to think of these things.

Amanda said...

I had to read A Separate Peace in middle school and I hated it. I went back to reread it a couple years ago and couldn't get beyond the first chapter. Something about the writing style just bugged me I guess. I remember very little about it. I think it might be the book we read that had a guy who was able to jump in a pool without ever being taught how to swim and break school swimming records. That concept is so ridiculously impossible, coming from a competitive swimmer's point of view, that I couldn't get past it. Might not be A Separate Peace though, a lot of those middle school books get mixed up in my head. Okay, I've gone way off topic, haven't I? I guess that's what happens when I get home from writing group and find 15 comments waiting for me...

Julie said...

I've read A Separate Peace, even though it was long time ago. I do remember how the character, Finny, dies. (SPOILER- if you wanted to read)






Basically, because he breaks his leg badly, he had to have an operation to set the bone. The Dr. felt that during the operation, some bone marrow got into Finny's bloodstream which enters his heart and kills him.
I'm not sure if this helps the plausibilty of McLarty's scenario with the bullet.
Also, Amanda, I don't remember the pool scenario (it has been a while since I read it) but I do remember that they jump from a high tree into a river.

Amanda said...

I checked it out! Yes, he does dive into a swimming pool and (unofficially) break the school record. Someone has it transcribed online, here. The time they give him is ridiculously impossible in his situation. i guess that sort of ruined the realism in that book for me. I thought the author should have done some research first.

Julie said...

I'm glad you found the reference, Amanda. I hadn't remembered about it. It didn't stick in my brain. I didn't think much of it but I realize how that would seem so unreal coming from a competitive swimmer's background. I think the author was trying to prove the boy had natural athletic abilities. It would be better had it been more realistic.