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.
... [a] sprawling, sparkling debut novel ... Porter’s tale abandons chronology to freewheel through time and place, in a series of seemingly random vignettes that loop through and around one another like knitting, veering off into new patterns, picking up dropped stitches of plot. Children reappear as lovers, lovers as negligent grandparents. Peripheral characters are brought abruptly into the foreground, new ones arrive without introduction to take centre stage. Events are revealed in screenplay form or through exchanged letters. It’s not always easy to keep track of who’s who...and there are moments when technical virtuosity tips over into tricksiness. On the whole, however, this is an exhilarating ride. Porter is a wickedly astute chronicler of human foibles and her sharp writing is often mordantly funny. It also brims with compassion. In her hands, this series of glimpses feels something like life itself: a tangled, involving, frustratingweave in which we know things briefly, intensely and at the same time not at all, and we are all both the heroes of our own stories and the extras in other people’s.
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.