Review of Long Drive Home: A Novel

Hey there boys and girls, we got another book review for you from Michelle Despres. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Soon after my move to Colorado, a local man received two life sentences for killing two men. He had pulled ahead of their car and slammed on the brakes in a road rage incident. Last weekend, a woman pulled in front of the cab my husband and I were in and slammed on the brakes. She was upset that our cab driver had merged in front of her when his lane was blocked. Luckily, even though the cab hit the car, no one was hurt. These incidents bookend countless other acts of aggression and rage on our roads.

Cars are unpredictable and unwieldy. Mixed with adrenaline and rage, they can be deadly. I am both angry and perplexed when people use cars as weapons. I am also absorbed by stories that demonstrate how drastically and irrevocably a life can change from one second to another by the simplest actions. So, I was certainly looking forward to reading Will Allison’s Long Drive Home.

Long Drive Home

Free Press

As our narrator, Glen Bauer, explains at the start of the story, he has a rough drive home after picking his daughter up from school. Through Bauer, Allison sets the story up wonderfully; the first chapter is by far the best. Bauer explains, “With a different choice here or there – and I’m talking the small ones you wouldn’t otherwise give a second thought to – I could have gotten us safely home from school like I did every other day.” His family would have had a normal, uneventful evening. He continues, “At no point would we have considered the possibility that we’d dodged a bullet that day, that we’d come this close to our lives veering permanently off course.”

The chain of events that occur during that relatively short drive lead Bauer to “cut the wheel to the left – as if (he) were going to turn in front of [a reckless driver].” The reckless driver is killed. Bauer and his 6-year-old daughter are the only witnesses.

What follows would be better served if it were not in the form a letter from Bauer to his daughter. Scrupulous editing could have effectively tightened the writing. And the sub-plots could have been better woven into the story.

For me, the story could have successfully ended immediately after the accident, but the story continues and explains the repercussions of Bauer’s action. Some repercussions test the boundaries of believability, and other elements of the story seem downright impossible. J.K Rowling asks you to suspend reality; Allison should not.

Perhaps I can accept that a hyper-alert 6-year-old sitting in the back seat of a car is able to see everything that happens through the front windshield. I cannot, however, accept that a 6-year-old possesses a continuously perfect memory, unchallenged by a flurry of action and the passing of time. It also seems impossible for that child to accurately interpret her father’s unspoken motives behind a subtle action he takes with the car and to share that interpretation without being prompted. That’s all I can say without divulging too much of the story.

Additionally, the reaction of the lead detective is highly questionable. Given the totality of evidence he collects about this case, I would expect him to move on. Instead, the accident follows him around as much as it does Bauer.

Bauer is haunted by the accident, and he feels tremendous guilt. He knows he intentionally cut the wheel to scare the reckless driver. Unfortunately, Allison wants us to believe that everyone knows that intention. But it’s more likely that they assume he cut the wheel to turn and then noticed the reckless driver.

My apparently radical belief is that the accident is not Bauer’s fault, and so it was difficult for me to accept Bauer’s response and even more difficult for me to accept his wife’s response, the detective’s response, and his daughter’s response.

This story isn’t entirely without merit, but a story concerning a split-second decision and its life-changing consequences could have been intense, complex, and riveting. I wanted to not be able to put this book down. Unfortunately, it was too easy to do just that.

Long Drive Home: A Novel by Will Allison.
Free Press, New York, 2011.
Hardcover, 224 pp., $22.00. ISBN 978-1416543039.

Thanks for your contribution Michelle.

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