West Liberty author Karen Musser Nortman has built two series around her love of camping. Her Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries series features seven novels to date, while the third book in her Time Travel Trailer series is set to publish this fall.
In anticipation of that third book, I took a ride on “The Time Travel Trailer,” the first book in the series. Nortman imagines a classic camper from the 1930s that delivers its occupants to the past each time they sleep through the night in it. As the book unfolds, the main characters, Lynne McBrier and her daughter, Dinah, discover that each effort to restore the camper to its original condition results in a deeper trip into the past.
The time travel aspect of the book is well handled — though arguably the late-in-the-book reveal of what led to the trailer’s strange properties is rushed and disappointing — and Nortman uses the conceit to explore the nature of family. Her characters encounter their relatives in the past and learn the details of the family stories they’ve heard over the years. Along the way, the mother/daughter relationship is challenged and strengthened.
Lynne narrates chapters from her perspective while Dinah’s chapters are crafted in the third person. Given Nortman’s strong dialogue and good characterizations, it seems clear she could have let Dinah speak for herself. That might well have lent more urgency to the chapters featuring the 14-year-old, especially when she attempts to navigate the past on her own.
Still, “The Time Travel Trailer” is an engaging read, with a nice blend of family drama, time travel adventure and action.