Traveling Light by Andrea Thalasinos
The power of destiny, the burden of making difficult decisions, and the pull of fate all come together to form this touching novel by Andrea Thalasinos. The main character, Paula Makaikis, is struggling to keep her ten year marriage afloat, even though it comes at a high personal cost. As a successful professor in New York City and married to Roger, a brilliant astrophysicist, Paula finds herself lonelier than ever having lost her husband to his chronic hoarding disorder. Then suddenly, as if a gift from the Greek gods, her best friend beckons her to the local hospital where a homeless dying man utters his last words in Greek. Paula must translate. Little does Paula know that this event is the catalyst that will eventually change her life.
Fotis is the dog that belongs to the homeless man. After discovering Fotis only responds to commands in Greek, Paula immediately grows a soft spot in her heart and can’t imagine surrendering the dog to the pound. Just like that, she is now a proud dog owner, even though she hasn’t the first clue about what to do. Fotis stirs something deep inside Paula and forces her to reevaluate her life. Before she knows it, she is buying a sleek new SUV and is on the road to California. When her plan abruptly takes a detour, Paula stops in northern Minnesota to gain her bearings. Reading the local newspaper at a roadside cafe, she stumbles upon a help-wanted ad from a wildlife rehabilitation center. Paula remembers the joy of working at a pet shop in her teen years and on a whim decides to apply for the job.
Working at the rehab center opens up a whole new world for Paula and as time goes by, she can’t imagine returning to New York and the life she left behind. Roger begs her to come home, but she is determined to keep her leave of absence and will not be rushed to return. Meanwhile, as she grows closer to Rick Gunnarsson, the owner of the center, Paula must confront the conflicting feelings growing inside her. Even while her mother and other new friends offer advice, Paula knows it is really up to her to find her own way.
I really enjoyed the struggles and emotions experienced by Paula throughout her journey. A large portion of the story focuses on animals and animal rights, but you don’t have to be an animal lover to enjoy the story. This novel will make for great reading group discussions as it touches on a variety of familiar and universal themes.
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