<B>A teen’s endless tour of America</B> Called lots of things con artists, thieves, swindlers, trailer trash the Travelers are a band of contemporary gypsies who tour the roads of America by trailer. Their ancestors in the Middle Ages, guided by the stars, traveled the countryside repairing weapons, pots and pans. In Kim Ablon Whitney’s debut novel <B>See You Down the Road</B>, Bridget Daugherty’s dad has told her how their people came from Ireland during the potato famine and got by however they could trading horses, working scams, selling fake lace. And they are still traveling. They work odd jobs at Kmart or Wal-Mart, roof houses and pave driveways, sell trailers, steal and scam their way across America. Bridget’s family of Northern Travelers is an insular, patriarchal culture, disdainful of country folk the term they use for everyone who is not a Traveler. Marriages outside the group are discouraged, and conversions to the culture are rare since Travelers shun those who mix with country blood. But the open road doesn’t seem so alluring when it’s all you have ever known. The teenaged Bridget does not attend high school very often, though she would like to. She compensates by being a big reader who wants to go to college, but she is supposed to marry Patrick Murphy. She simply doesn’t have much say in the life planned for her by her father.
<B>See You Down the Road</B> is a fascinating look at an invisible subculture in the United States. And though the Traveler society Whitney describes is unconventional, Bridget’s struggle for identity is universal. Bridget has educated herself, and she knows there’s more to life than being a Traveler. But what will it take for her to find the life she wants for herself? This is a satisfying novel and a compelling exploration of a way of life that will be new to many readers. <I>Dean Schneider teaches middle school English in Nashville.</I>