When Lynne McBrier acquires a vintage camping trailer, she can’t imagine that her camping trips will be journeys not just to new places, but to former times.
Struggling to raise rebellious teenaged daughter Dinah after separating from her husband Kurt, Lynne buys the 1937 camper on impulse from her old friend Ben, who used it to take trips with his now deceased wife, Minnie. Dinah, who like most adolescent girls considers anything her mother wants her to do as boring, agrees reluctantly to go on one sentimental weekend camping trip before Lynne converts the trailer into an office.
It’s pretty cozy as Lynne and Dinah settle into a local campground and tuck in for the night. But when they wake up, things around them have changed—there are no big trees, no paved roads, and the large cement bathhouse is gone, in its place, two wooden outhouses.
They are forced to realize that, impossible as it seems, the trailer has transported them back in time; people talk to them about their fear of Russian spies, and everyone is dressed in outmoded costumes. Certain clues to the transformation allow them to reverse the process and return to 2014. They agree not to talk about their misadventure.
But Lynne secretly takes a time trip on her own and Dinah wants visit the past once more, having become obsessed with classic books about time travel. Each jump lands them in a different portion of the twentieth century. Lynne tries to get the truth about the trailer from Ben, but he is in hospital, raving incomprehensibly about Minnie. Then Lynne and Kurt are forced together to test the mysteries of time travel when Dinah goes missing, almost certainly carried away by the camper.
Author Karen Musser Nortman has cleverly constructed this fantasy with many small but important particulars. Mother and daughter, whose testy relationship is realistically portrayed, visit a vintage store to get mid-century clothes and add an old-fashioned radio and other details to the camper so they’ll seem plausible to people they encounter in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Reminders of historical events—teen hobos in the Great Depression, Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile, the McCarthy hearings—contribute authenticity to the story, while touches like the strong family similarity in appearance and rebellious temperament between Dinah and her then teen-aged ancestor add poignancy.
Well-drawn characters, tight plotting and the alluring possibility of returning to, and possibly changing, the past make The Time Travel Trailer an engaging, mind-tickling trip makes for a fun armchair vacation.