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Synopsis: TRAVELING LIGHT
Fifty year old Paula Makaikis' life has taken a strange turn over the last decade.
As Director of NYU's Center of Immigrant Studies, she feels increasingly irrelevant.
Work piles up, co-workers complain, yet Paula's only concerns are feeding the
birds on her office window ledge. After a heartbreaking decade of sleeping on
a downstairs couch in her husband Roger's brownstone, (his compulsive need to
hoard has taken on the dimension of mental illness), Paula's life changes when a
lunchtime phone call from Celeste, a social worker and her best friend, summons
her to the hospital to translate the dying words of an elderly indigent Greek man.
In an ironic twist of events, Paula and the man recognize each other, prompting
memories of the mystical Greek island roots of her childhood. She promises to
see his dog, Fotis ("light" in Greek), who's been impounded by animal control.
While she retrieves Fotis, her husband refuses to allow the dog in the house.
After acknowledging that there's nothing she can do to help her husband, Paula
decides to take a break from her marriage and job, opting for a trip out west with
Fotis, hoping to gain a fresh perspective.
Though initially headed to California, instead Paula turns north at Chicago to
visit her retired major professor in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Reflecting on her
marriage during the drive, she stops for coffee in Grand Marais, a small town
on Lake Superior. Sitting at an outside picnic table, she spots a local newspaper
on the top of a trash can swarming with yellow jacket bees folded open to the
employment page. An ad for a Wildlife Rehabilitator for Raptors is circled in blue
ink. On a whim, she calls to see about the job.
Rick Gunnersson, a retired attorney
from Minneapolis, now a licensed
wildlife rehabilitator is immediately
suspicious. This well-educated
woman seems to have fallen from the
sky. Driving a car with temporary New
York plates, traveling with no luggage
and a dog she barely knows that only
understands Greek, Rick hires her
partly as a foil. He suspects she's
working for the illegal wildlife breeders
against whom he's working.
Paula's demeanor further fuels
mistrust as she carefully guards her
own sorrows and tries to sort out her
marriage during this brief time. She
takes to caring for a bald eagle
suffering from lead poisoning, treating
it several times a day to maximize its
chances for recovery.
It's only after a month of learning about raptors, foxes and wolves that her
devotion to these fine creatures wins Rick's trust. Paula's eighty year old
immigrant mother visits after getting fired from her job at a furrier in New
York. The two women develop a new closeness as Eleni shares her own
guarded secret about the identity of the indigent man.
Though torn about leaving the animals and friendships in Grand
Marais,Paula returns to NY to work on her marriage The book finishes
with a shocking conclusion about Roger and the state of their marriage.
Traveling Light is an inspiring story about fate, family, and healing.
This novel explores what is possible when we cut the ties that hold us
down and free the heart to soar.
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