Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: Will Allison's Long Drive Home

Long Drive Home

by Will Allison

Published by Free Press, an imprint of Simon and Schuster

Release Date: May 17, 2011

224 pages

ISBN: 978-1-4165-4303-9

Lives aren't just figures in a ledger, and what was done was done. There were just consequences, how you felt, and what you did about it.

Do you ever have one of those days where you get behind the wheel and everything imaginable happens to you? You narrowly miss hitting a dog, only to get rear ended by the driver (on the cellphone) behind you. Later, you end up side-swiping the mailbox in your rush to get home.

If that dog hadn't rushed into the middle of the street, you wouldn't have had to stomp on the brakes, which means your bumper wouldn't be hanging on by a thread and maybe-- just maybe-- your mailbox wouldn't have carved a deep gouge onto your passenger side door.

Driving is fraught with peril. It doesn't matter if you're on the highway or driving down the street in your quiet little subdivision. Danger lurks right around the corner. It could come in the form of the teen girl who's too busy reaching for her ipod on the floorboard to watch where she's going. Or the businessman reading a text from a client, and takes his eyes off the road at a crucial moment. Or the mom who turns around to tell Jessie to stop kicking Joey. It isn't just about how YOU have to anticipate how everyone else is, too.

It's tiresome. And incredibly frustrating. And sometimes, you just want to lash out.

Glen Bauer is just a regular guy, on the way home from picking up his daughter, Sara, from school. Not only does this become the drive from hell, but at the end of it, someone is dead. And that someone happens to be an 18 year old boy who cut in front of Glen not once, but twice. As his neighbors rush outside to help the ejected teen laying face first on the lawn, Glen instinctively lies about how the accident occurs. He doesn't tell the officer that the teen narrowly missed hitting him at an intersection just a few minutes before the second, fatal car crash. He doesn't tell the officer that just before pulling into his driveway, he'd jerked the steering wheel, to give the kid a good scare. He doesn't tell the officer what happened on the way home, way before the kid and he ever crossed paths...what just may have sent him over the ledge in the first place.

As Glen lies to everyone, including himself; as he tries to avoid having his daughter (an eyewitness) interviewed by the assigned detective, he looks more and more for someone else to blame. He couldn't be the source of a mother's anguish, and a life halted in its youth.

In a collision of fear and guilt, Glen makes one bad decision after another. And his wife, Liz, reacting not only to the truths she knows Glen is withholding, but to her refusal to lose everything she's worked so hard for, proposes a shocking plan to avoid financial culpability.

Can Glen save his own life? Can he keep his family together? Was the accident really all his fault? And moreover, can he live with the guilt, with the silence, with the burden of someone else's blood on his hands?

In a novel that dissects class, race, remorse, marriage, and the half-truths we tell ourselves, readers won't stop asking themselves what they would have done differently. Or acknowledging how easy it is to be in Glen's predicament, after all.

* I received this book for free in exchange for a review. This had no bearing on my opinion of the novel.

Will Allison's debut novel, What You Have Left, was selected for Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers, Borders Original Voices, and Book Sense Picks, and was named one of 2007's notable books by the San Francisco Chronicle. His short stories have appeared in magazines such as Zoetrope: All-Story, Glimmer Train, and One Story and have received special mention in the Pushcart Prize and Best American Short Stories anthologies. He is the former executive editor of Story. Born in Columbia, South Carolina, he now lives with his wife and daughter in New Jersey. Learn more about Will Allison at