Where We Have Been

A bumpy, warp-speed view of the ultimate road trip—humanity’s

Throughout her new book, Road Through Time, Mary Soderstrom draws frequent comparisons between her own work and Jack Kerouac’s 1957 classic novel, On the Road. According to Soderstrom, Kerouac’s book is “emblematic of the romance of the road, of inviting paths taken or not taken … [a] sprawling chronicle of a hipster’s wanderings.” The subtitle of Soderstrom’s book—“The Story of Humanity on the Move”—of course portends a preoccupation that is startlingly at odds with Kerouac’s personal spiritual quest. Perhaps the only similarity between the two books is that they both contain road trips—of a sort.

Road Through Time contains two. The first begins in the 1950s with ten-year-old Mary aboard a bus with her mother and sister, departing Los Angeles. Very soon, however, the reader discovers that, unlike On the Road, Soderstrom’s book will not be a continuous...