I had known Lolita by its reputation for so long that when I finally got around to reading it myself I was surprised at how much of it takes place in cars, on lonely highways, and in seedy and decidedly non-seedy hotels. Humbert uses one of the most American of pleasures—the road trip—as cover for his monstrous intentions toward Lolita. While reading his descriptions of the ways the country passes by, it’s disturbingly easy to forget his true purpose in making the journey.
Heroes of the Frontier
A slow burn, this novel begins with Josie, a 40-year-old dentist from Ohio, renting an RV so she can drive herself and her two small children through Alaska and as far away from her life, her ex, and her memories as she can possibly get. The style is comedic bordering on the absurd, but even so, I found myself feeling for Josie at the end in a way I hadn’t expected to in the beginning.
Picture Me Gone
When Mila’s father’s best friend disappears days before they’re meant to fly from London to visit him in New York state, they decide to go ahead with the trip in the hopes of finding him. Narrated by Mila, a forthright 12-year-old who sees everything but doesn’t quite understand as much as she thinks she does, this novel explores some of the complicated ways that people relate to each other with a dose of clarity and simplicity.
The idea of hitting the road has captivated people since a time when most of us could expect to be buried no more than a mile or two from where we’d been born. Whether it’s a long-awaited expedition, such as Bilbo’s trip to visit the elves at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings, or a more spontaneous running away, as in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the journey is one of the most enduring fictional set-ups. And while The Lauras begins with the abrupt decision to leave home, that’s certainly not the only way to go about a road-trip novel, as these seven books demonstrate.
Featured image: Smith Collection/Gado