“Traveling Light” tells the dramatic story of a young woman whose carefully planned future is up-ended by her impulse-buy of a used Honda Civic. Casey Hansmeyer is a recent graduate of Brown University who discovers, within days of buying her car, the dubious allure of I-95, that non-celebrated, non-wonder of an interstate highway which she can easily access from her home in Providence. Thoughts of grad school start to fade once Casey begins going for longer and longer drives on the highway, seduced by the thrill of going nowhere in particular, but fast.
At a rest stop in New Jersey one day, she meets Roxana, a woman her own age who bestrides the rest-stop food courts and gas stations of the Mid-Atlantic States with a sort of piratical swagger. Roxana tells Casey she’s taking a driveaway up to New Haven — and challenges her to an impromptu dare. Despite their obvious differences, Casey senses a potential kindred spirit in Roxana, and accepts the challenge.
The two women then develop a wary friendship, with Casey drawn in by her new friend’s charisma and verve but also disconcerted by the blatant lies she knows Roxana to be telling. Finally, when Roxana makes it clear just what she’s doing on the road, Casey is forced to make a decision that will have unpredictable consequences.
Literary fiction with the pacing and suspense of a thriller, “Traveling Light” features two highly original women protagonists and a specific milieu that readers don’t often encounter in contemporary fiction — the unique American subculture that is I-95, captured here in all its tawdry glory.
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