A sprawling saga that follows two interconnected American families, one Black, one white, from the 1950s through the first decade of the twenty-first century. The intersections of history, race, place, and related ways of thinking play out in the characters’ lives and have consequences that may not be obvious for decades.
... one of the most formally surprising — and successfully so — debuts I’ve read in years ... In chronicling these journeys, Porter moves back and forth through characters and time at an impressive clip, writing with authority, insight and humor. A captivating storyteller, Porter proves as intelligent an observer of the startling shapes a lifetime can take as its most intimate and unforgettable moments ... The narration shifts into various modes of storytelling with delightful facility... It is no small delight, either, to read Porter’s consistently excellent and energetic dialogue ... What happens when a novel takes an ethical stance against sidelining a character? When it attempts to give each glancing soul a glimmer of full humanity? The answer is something that looks very much like life itself, especially in these messy and overwhelmingly interconnected times — if not like very many novels in the Western tradition. Sometimes, the result can feel too much like a jigsaw puzzle, drawing the reader’s attention away from the emotional heart to piecing together how this person is related to that...But most of the time, the complexity and richness of The Travelers is simply stunning, not a ruse but the singular product of a capacious intellect and generous curiosity.
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 backdrop of events may be familiar (the Vietnam War, racial protests in the ’60s), but the complex, beautifully drawn characters are unique and indelible.
Porter upends any expectations of the traditional family saga by constantly shape-shifting ... Most things, however, don’t necessarily come full circle, resolve or round out — and that’s not a criticism. Sometimes a dark thing happens on a country road, and that’s that. The officer and the victim — or the victim’s family — move on with their lives. This lack of neatness feels closer to real life than most family sagas, whose stories often tidy up with easy reconciliation or syrupy sentimentalism. But those endings often detract from an otherwise complex story. And complexity is one thing Porter knows well.