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Go Along For The Ride: Contemporary Road Trip Fiction

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Go Along For The Ride: Contemporary Road Trip Fiction

road trip fiction

Looking to get away in the summer, without the hassle of traveling by air?  Taking a road trip is a great way to get away and travel to a new destination since it offers flexibility and freedom.

Road trips are an important theme in American literature whether it be Jack Kerouac’s On The Road or John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley: In Search of America.  Here are some contemporary fiction titles as well as DVDs, featuring meaningful, adventurous or exciting road trips taken by the characters that might just satiate your wanderlust or inspire you to hop into your vehicle and hit the road.

black and endless sky

A Black And Endless Sky by Matthew Lyons

When estranged siblings Jonah and Nell Talbot head out on a cross-country road trip back to their hometown of Albuquerque in the wake of Jonah’s divorce, the last thing they expect to discover in the Nevada desert is an abandoned industrial site built around a hole in the earth that seems to go on and on forever. Exploring it, they soon discover an underground cavern filled with corpses both fresh and ancient, indecipherable writing covering the stone walls, and a ghastly altar square in the middle of it all. After a seemingly-random accident befalls Nell underground, the two siblings emerge from the depths intent on finding help as Nell starts to exhibit strange, otherworldly symptoms – speaking in voices that aren’t hers, knowing details about her brother’s checkered past that she couldn’t possibly have known before. As her condition worsens, Jonah comes to understand that the more his sister changes, the more danger they find themselves in, and when the siblings run afoul of a local criminal organization, the race is on to find help for Nell and escape before a violent, bloody end finds them.

All My Mother’s Lovers by Ilana Masad

Intimacy has always eluded twenty-seven-year-old Maggie Krause – despite being brought up by married parents, models of domestic bliss – until, that is, Lucia came into her life. But when Maggie’s mom, Iris, dies in a car crash, Maggie returns home only to discover a withdrawn dad, an angry brother, and, along with Iris’s will, five sealed envelopes, each addressed to a mysterious man she’s never heard of. In an effort to run from her own grief and discover the truth about Iris – who made no secret of her discomfort with her daughter’s sexuality – Maggie embarks on a road trip, determined to hand-deliver the letters and find out what these men meant to her mother. Maggie quickly discovers Iris’s second, hidden life, which shatters everything Maggie thought she knew about her parents’ perfect relationship. 

Bird Summons by Leila Aboulela

When Salma, Moni, and Iman–friends and active members of their local Muslim Women’s group–decide to take a road trip together to the Scottish Highlands, they leave behind lives often dominated by obligation, frustrated desire, and dull predictability. Each wants something more out of life, but fears the cost of taking it. Salma is successful and happily married, but tempted to risk it all when she’s contacted by her first love back in Egypt; Moni gave up a career in banking to care for her disabled son without the help of her indifferent husband; and Iman, in her twenties and already on her third marriage, longs for the freedom and autonomy she’s never known. When the women are visited by the Hoopoe, a sacred bird from Muslim and Celtic literature, they are compelled to question their relationships to faith and femininity, love, loyalty, and sacrifice.

C’mon C’mon DVD

A radio journalist embarks on a cross-country trip with his young nephew.

Graceland by Nancy Crochiere

The quiet, introverted daughter of a flamboyant soap-star agrees to take her Elvis-obsessed mother to Graceland one last time before she dies despite leaving Memphis with a secret and a signed agreement never to return.

karma map

The Karma Map by Nisha Sharma

A youth group’s temple road trip through India is a liberating escape for former mean girl Tara Bajaj and aspiring photojournalist Silas D’Souza-Gupta to explore their past and their feelings for each other.

Karwaan DVD

Two friends and a chirpy teenager take a road trip from Bangalore to Kochi.

The Leisure Seeker DVD

Long-term couple John and Ella Robina are experiencing the struggles of growing older. With John having Alzheimer’s and Ella undergoing cancer treatment, they decide to abandon their disease-stricken lifestyles and embark on a journey from Boston to Key West in an attempt to fully live what’s left of their lives. Their trusty RV, which they’ve dubbed “The Leisure Seeker”, will be their mode of transportation as they enjoy what may be their last adventure together.

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

In June, 1954, eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson is driven home to Nebraska by the warden of the juvenile work farm where he has just served fifteen months for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is to pick up his eight-year-old brother, Billy, and head to California where they can start their lives anew. But when the warden drives away, Emmett discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car. Together, they have hatched an altogether different plan for Emmett’s future, one that will take them all on a fateful journey in the opposite direction–to the city of New York.

Lost And Found by Danielle Steel

It all starts with a fall from a ladder, in a firehouse in New York City. The firehouse has been converted into a unique Manhattan home and studio where renowned photographer Madison Allen works and lives after raising three children on her own. But the accident, which happens while Maddie is sorting through long-forgotten personal mementos and photos, results in more than a broken ankle. It changes her life. Spurred by old memories, the forced pause in her demanding schedule, and an argument with her daughter that leads to a rare crisis of confidence, Maddie embarks on a road trip. She hopes to answer questions about the men she loved and might have married–but didn’t–in the years after she was left alone with three young children. Wearing a cast and driving a rented SUV, she sets off to reconnect with three very different men–one in Boston, one in Chicago, and another in Wyoming–to know once and for all if the decisions she made long ago were the right ones. As the miles and days pass, and with each new encounter, Maddie’s life comes into clearer focus and a new future takes shape.

maltese iguana

The Maltese Iguana by Tim Dorsey

After a long and arduous COVID-19 quarantine, Serge A. Storms is fully vaccinated and ready to hit the road. Along with his condo neighbors, he cooks up a wild plan to celebrate in true Serge fashion: each week, they rent a shuttle van and head out for funky Florida road trips and some serious revelry. Meanwhile, a CIA revenge operation down in Honduras goes very, very wrong. The local liaison hired to help with the mission is the only witness to the disaster, and the CIA quickly sets a black ops contractor on his trail to eliminate him. Forced to flee his home country, the witness lands in Miami with a new identity and passport. But the CIA is still on his tail, pushing him further and further south to the Florida Keys, where he runs into Serge’s convoy. With Florida’s most lovable serial killer involved, the real party is about to get started.

The Mostly True Story Of Tanner & Louise by Colleen Oakley

A wildly entertaining road trip novel featuring a college dropout and an eighty-four-year-old woman off on the adventure of their lives. Twenty-three-year-old Tanner Quimby needs a place to live. Preferably one where she can continue sitting around in sweatpants and playing video games nineteen hours a day. Since she has no credit or money to speak of, her options are limited, so when an opportunity to work as a live-in caregiver for an elderly woman falls into her lap, she takes it. One slip on the rug. That’s all it took for Louise Wilt’s daughter to demand that Louise have a full-time nanny living with her. Never mind that she can still walk fine, finish her daily crossword puzzle, and pour the two fingers of vodka she drinks every afternoon. Tanner wants nothing to do with the uptight old woman until she starts to notice things–weird things. Like, why does Louise keep her garden shed locked up tighter than a prison? And why is the local news fixated on an international jewelry thief that looks eerily like Louise? 

Mrs. Nash’s Ashes by Sarah Adler

Millicent Watts-Cohen is on a mission. When she promised her elderly best friend that she’d reunite her with the woman she fell in love with nearly eighty years ago, she never imagined that would mean traveling from D.C. to Key West with three tablespoons of Mrs. Nash’s remains in her backpack. But Millie’s determined to give her friend a symbolic happily-ever-after, before it’s (really) too late—and hopefully reassure herself of love’s lasting power in the process. She just didn’t expect to have a living travel companion. After a computer glitch grounds flights, Millie is forced to catch a ride with Hollis Hollenbeck, an also-stranded acquaintance from her ex’s MFA program. Hollis certainly does not believe in happily-ever-afters—symbolic or otherwise—and makes it quite clear that he can’t fathom Millie’s plan ending well for anyone.

But as they contend with peculiar bed-and-breakfasts, unusual small-town festivals, and deer with a death wish, Millie begins to suspect that her reluctant travel partner might enjoy her company more than he lets on. Because for someone who supposedly doesn’t share her views on romance, Hollis sure is becoming invested in the success of their journey. And the closer they get to their destination, the more Millie has to admit that maybe this trip isn’t just about Mrs. Nash’s love story after all—maybe it’s also about her own.

Naked Came The Florida Man by Tim Dorsey

Though another devastating hurricane is raking Florida, its awesome power can’t stop the Sunshine State’s most loyal son, Serge A. Storms, from his latest scenic road trip: a cemetery tour. With his best bro Colman riding shotgun, Serge hits the highway in his ’69 gold Plymouth Satellite, putting pedal to the metal on a grand tour of the past. Beginning in Key West, the sunshine boys’ odyssey includes a forgotten mass grave in Palm Beach county holding the remains of African Americans killed by the Great Hurricane of 1928, and the resting place of one world-famous television dolphin (RIP Flipper) from the 1960s. But one deadland–a haunted old sugar field–holds more than just the bones of those who’ve passed. For years, local children have whispered about a boogeyman hiding among the stalks. Could it be the same maniac known as Naked Florida man who’s been raising hell all over the place? 

Off the Map by Trish Doller

Carla Black’s life motto is “here for a good time, not for a long time.” She’s been traveling the world on her own in her vintage Jeep Wrangler for nearly a decade, stopping only long enough to replenish her adventure fund. She doesn’t do love and she doesn’t ever go home.Eamon Sullivan is a modern-day cartographer who creates digital maps. His work helps people find their way, but he’s the one who’s lost his sense of direction. He’s unhappy at work, recently dumped, and his one big dream is stalled out—literally. Fate throws them together when Carla arrives in Dublin for her best friend’s wedding and Eamon is tasked with picking her up from the airport. But what should be a simple drive across Ireland quickly becomes complicated with chemistry-filled detours, unexpected feelings, and a chance at love – if only they choose it.

our share of night

Our Share Of Night by Mariana Enriquez

In 1981, a young father and son set out on a road trip across Argentina, devastated by the mysterious death of the wife and mother they both loved. United in grief, the pair travels to her family home near Iguazú Falls, where they must confront the horrific legacy she has bequeathed. For the woman they are grieving came from a family like no other–a centuries-old secret society called the Order that pursues eternal life through ghastly rituals. For Gaspar, the son, this cult is his destiny. As Gaspar grows up he must learn to harness his developing supernatural powers, while struggling to understand what kind of man his mother wanted him to be. Meanwhile Gaspar’s father tries to protect his son from his wife’s violent family while still honoring the woman he loved so desperately.

The Road Trip by Beth O’ Leary

What if the end of the road is just the beginning? Four years ago, Dylan and Addie fell in love under the Provence sun. Wealthy Oxford student Dylan was staying at his friend Cherry’s enormous French villa; wild child Addie was spending her summer as the on-site caretaker. Two years ago, their relationship officially ended. They haven’t spoken since. Today, Dylan’s and Addie’s lives collide again. It’s the day before Cherry’s wedding, and Addie and Dylan crash cars at the start of the journey there. Dylan’s car is wrecked, and the wedding is in rural Scotland–he’ll never get there on time by public transport. So, along with Dylan’s best friend, Addie’s sister, and a random guy on Facebook who needed a ride, they squeeze into Addie’s car and set off across Britain. Cramped into the same space, Dylan and Addie are forced to confront the choices they made that tore them apart–and ask themselves whether that final decision was the right one after all.

Silver Alert by Lee Smith

The story of an elderly man who, rather than give up his independence, heads off on a joyride with a new young friend.

The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan

When Martha sees Kathleen’s advertisement for a driver and companion to share an epic road trip across America, she decides this job might be the answer to her prayers. She’s not the world’s best driver, but anything has to be better than living with her parents. And traveling with a stranger? No problem. Anyway, how much trouble can one 80-year-old woman be?

VenCo by Cherie Dimaline

Lucky St. James’ life hasn’t lived up to her name. Her father disappeared when she was a baby, her mom died of cancer when she was eight, she’s currently working a series of soul-crushing temp jobs, and she’s the sole support for a grandmother suffering from dementia. Then Lucky finds a souvenir Salem-witch spoon in her basement, and her whole world turns upside down. Magic is real, actual witches burned at Salem, and not only is she a witch but she’s supposed to help her coven usher in a new era, destroying the current patriarchal system dooming so many to hardship and violence. Through the various coven members and MacGuffin-hunting road trips we are shown a vibrantly diverse cross section of womanhood as well as folk beliefs and magical thought across the country. 

Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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