Time and space are as fluid as water in Keith Lee Morris’ labyrinthine third novel, his first since 2008’s brutal The Dart League King. This time, a family road trip goes awry in the small town of Good Night, Idaho thanks to a hotel that rivals The Shining’s, a book with which Travelers Rest will inevitably be compared, though there are more definitive answers here.
The Addison family—mother, father, son and alcoholic uncle—are driving from Seattle to South Carolina when a snowstorm forces them to look for lodging in Good Night. The eponymous hotel, Travelers Rest, was once a palatial second home for the town’s high society, but fell into disrepair when the local mines dried up decades ago. After checking into the hotel, the Addisons quickly become separated in ways that are hard to describe, thanks to the shifting nature of time, space, memory, and dream in Good Night. The town is a lot like that grand staircase in Hogwarts, always rearranging itself depending on who enters and what they want.
Tonio, the father, wanders outside in the snow and follows a strange woman in silver shoes. Julia, the mother, finds an oddly familiar room on the third floor with an open roof, where she’s content to lie down and dream. Robbie, the uncle fresh out of rehab, bolts for the bar across the street, where he can’t tell if it’s the booze or the town that’s playing tricks on him. And Dewey, Julia and Tonio’s 10-year-old son, searches for his family, glimpsing them from a distance from time to time, but never quite able to reach them.
If you feel lost after the first 100 pages (and you will), don’t worry. The story is worth your confusion. In fact, it requires it. Proustian in theme but not in form, Travelers Rest is the definition of dreamlike prose. Morris’ writing is clean and cold as snow. The pages drift by just as effortlessly, lulling you into a quiet cocoon that you realize, too late, is actually something much more sinister.