Alison's Automotive Repair Manual

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Overview

A widow in her mid-thirties, Alison has been mourning for two years. Now living in small town West Virginia with her sister Sarah and brother-in-law Bill, Alison is unable to move on with her life. Finally, she promises Sarah and Bill that she will start over—-once she restores the abandoned, nearly ruined 1976 Corvette she found rusting in the garage and immediately loved. Unfortunately, Alison doesn't know the first thing about cars, and the fact that the townspeople (with the exception of a cute demolition ...

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New Ships From Canada. New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 288 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade. Book Description A widow in her ... mid-thirties, Alison has been in mourning for two years. She lives in West Virginia with her sister and brother-in-law, and they are urging her to get on with her life and move back home. Alison promises to leave-just as soon as she renovates a nearly ruined 1976 Corvette rusting in their garage. Problem is, she doesn't know the first thing about cars, and the townspeople are reluctant to have a woman messing with automotive parts. About the Author Brad Barkley, a native of North Carolina, is the author of Money, Love, which was a B&N Discover selection, a Book Sense 76 pick, and named one of the best novels of 2000 by The Washington Post and Library Journal. He lives in western Maryland with his wife and two children. Read more Show Less

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Alison's Automotive Repair Manual

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Overview

A widow in her mid-thirties, Alison has been mourning for two years. Now living in small town West Virginia with her sister Sarah and brother-in-law Bill, Alison is unable to move on with her life. Finally, she promises Sarah and Bill that she will start over—-once she restores the abandoned, nearly ruined 1976 Corvette she found rusting in the garage and immediately loved. Unfortunately, Alison doesn't know the first thing about cars, and the fact that the townspeople (with the exception of a cute demolition man) find a woman messing with automotive parts bewildering doesn't help.

With beautiful frankness and surprising hilarity, Brad Barkley tells of a gutsy woman's attempts to overcome loss, and fit into a close-knit community, in a triumphant look at grief, love, loss, and moving on.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Lee Smith
Beguiling and utterly original, Alison's Automotive Repair Manual is a modern fable of love and community.
Glen David Gold
...rich, humorous writing...He casts a gentle light upon the kinds of characters you wish you were coming home to.
Brad Watson
A beautifully written, tender evocation of love and loss.
Publishers Weekly
Automotive repair doubles as grief therapy in Barkley's quirky, emotionally resonant third novel (after Money, Love) set in a small town in West Virginia, where a newly widowed young woman tries to delay putting her life back together. Alison Durst is the witty, 30-ish protagonist who's become a semipermanent guest of her sister Sarah and brother-in-law Bill ever since her husband died in an accident. She's already spent two years in mourning, and in spite of Sarah and Bill's pleas that she get on with it, Alison makes yet another bid to prolong her suspended state: she's going to rebuild her brother-in-law's broken-down Corvette, and then she'll leave. Of course, she knows nothing about cars. Sparks really start to fly, however, when Max Kesler, the owner of a one-man munitions company, comes to help her with the project. Their initial dates are as explosive as they are funny, with Alison accompanying Max while he blows up a silo and then scopes out the hotel that may be his next target. Barkley spends a bit too much time on Max's father, a compulsive liar whose habit is beginning to interfere with Max's relationship with Alison. This subplot slows the romantic momentum, but the combination of Barkley's understated comic style and well-calibrated dialogue is more than enough to overcome the misstep. The icing on the cake is the author's touching portrayal of smalltown life in West Virginia. (Mar.) Forecast: Money, Love was a Book Sense 76 pick, and Barkley's latest comes supplied with blurbs by Jill McCorkle and Glen David Gold, among others. The blend of romance and how-to should prove enticing, and will help Barkley build his reader base. Regional author tour. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Barkley is back (after Money, Love), and he has a winner. Almost two years after her husband's accidental death, Alison Durst's life is at a standstill. Her house is empty, her teaching job is on hold, and she's still living with her sister and brother-in-law in their small West Virginia town. A moldering 1976 Corvette in the garage seems to be the way out of this "rest stop." Armed with the Haynes Automotive Repair Manual (quoted between book chapters), Alison endeavors to restore the car, which results in life-changing implications for all around her. With car repair as metaphor, we learn much about forgiveness and hope; the differences among facts, lies, and truth; and the grand importance of how and with whom our life journeys are made. Barkley steers this one straight into our hearts. Highly recommended for most fiction collections.-Rebecca Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights
Kirkus Reviews
A widow repairs an old car in order to mend her broken life. Alison, the heart of Barkley’s second novel (after Money, Love, 2000), has been without her husband for some two years now. Since he died, she’s been living with her quick-to-criticize sister Sarah and studiously avoiding anything like a life in her small West Virginia town. Once a teacher at the local college, she hasn’t wanted anything to do with that part of her past for quite some time. At the outset, she’s decided to take on a project: restoring the rust-eaten 1976 Corvette that’s wearing grooves in the floor of her husband’s garage. A child of the suburbs (her husband took care of all things mechanical), Alison has no skills or training for the job—just time and determination. So she gets a repair manual, starts maxing out her credit cards at the auto-parts store (run by a friendly preacher who likes to include hellfire-and-brimstone pamphlets with all purchases), and getting to work. The subplot involves Alison’s friendship with Gordon Kesler, an old man who plays records for the dance lessons that Sarah runs out of her house. Gordon, a trivia buff and great teller of lies, introduces Alison to his son, Max, who works in demolitions, blowing up old silos and the like. Alison starts up a fitful romance with Max, a surprisingly sensitive and articulate guy for someone who spends his time playing around with dynamite. An unfortunate branch of the subplot follows the draining of the lake near the town, which everyone thinks will uncover the car that, legend has it, Gordon drove across the ice years ago and that fell through, almost taking him with it. The water is drained, truth uncovered, etc. Because it’s just that kind ofbook, Alison’s car repair takes on über-symbolic significance as, through it, she learns how to live again. Well-crafted, warmly treated—and unforgivably meek.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312291389
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/10/2003
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.66 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Brad Barkley, a native of North Carolina, is the author of the novel, Money, Love, which was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and a Book Sense 76 choice. Money, Love was named one of the best books of 2000 by the Washington Post and Library Journal. Barkley was named as one of the "Newcomers of 2002: Breakthrough Writers You Need to Know" by Book magazine. He is also the author of a story collection, Circle View. His short fiction has appeared in more than two dozen magazines, including the Southern Review, the Georgia Review, Oxford American, the Greensboro Review, Glimmer Train, Book magazine, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, which has twice awarded him the Emily Balch Prize for Best Fiction. His work was anthologized in New Stories from the South: The Year's Best, 2002 and again in 2003. A story collection, Another Perfect Catastrophe, is his next book, also published by St. Martin's Press. He has won four Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council, and a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Brad Barkley teaches creative writing at Frostburg State University. He lives in western Maryland with his wife, Mary, and two children.

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Reading Group Guide

About the Book:

A widow in her mid-thirties, Alison has been mourning for two years. Now living in small town West Virginia with her sister Sarah and brother-in-law Bill, Alison is unable to move on with her life. Finally, she promises Sarah and Bill that she will start over---once she restores the abandoned, nearly ruined 1976 Corvette she found rusting in the garage and immediately loved. Unfortunately, Alison doesn't know the first thing about cars, and the fact that the townspeople (with the exception of a cute demolition man) find a woman messing with automotive parts bewildering doesn't help.

With beautiful frankness and surprising hilarity, Brad Barkley tells of a gutsy woman's attempts to overcome loss, and fit into a close-knit community, in a triumphant look at grief, love, loss, and moving on.

Discussion Questions:

"Fix the brakes. Better know you can make it stop, before you make it go," is advise Mr. Kesler gives Alison. Alison's had the brakes on in her life, metaphorically, for some time. Why might this advice be appropriate, or inappropriate for Alison at this point in her life? When in one's life might this advice be useful?

"Historical always means dilapidated," Lila said when discussing the old dam. Alison, a history professor, takes issue with this sort of mentality. Are older items more or less valuable? Does their historical importance and patina outweigh the wear-and-tear they might have suffered? What does this say about the attitudes people have toward the elderly, and toward the past?

Max describes demolition as: "I just take out the base, the supports or foundation for whatever structure, hold my breath, and let it fall. I just teach things about gravity." Is this an appropriate metaphor for the tragedy in Alison's life? Was Marty her foundation? Is her biggest problem grief, or gravity?

Mr. Beachy says, "Customers ask me all the time about blue-book value, and what this or that might be worth. If you love the car, then it's priceless." What items in your life might appear worthless to outsiders, but are indispensable to you? How much of their value is related to how much effort you put into them?

This book is about loss. Not only Marty's death, but also things like the Corvette, the silo, the dam, and Colaville. What other loses, big and small, can you identify through the book? How does the loss of hope or opportunities affect people? Have you experienced any great or small losses that changed your life? Did this help you identify with the novel?

Several reviewers noted that they were impressed with how well Brad Barkley was able to tell this story from a woman's point of view. Do you agree or disagree with his success in capturing a woman's voice? Were you aware of the author's gender as you were reading?

About the Author:

Brad Barkley, a native of North Carolina, is the author of the novel, Money, Love, which was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and a Book Sense 76 choice. Money, Love was named one of the best books of 2000 by the Washington Post and Library Journal. Barkley was named as one of the "Newcomers of 2002: Breakthrough Writers You Need to Know" by Book magazine. He is also the author of a story collection, Circle View. His short fiction has appeared in more than two dozen magazines, including the Southern Review, the Georgia Review, Oxford American, the Greensboro Review, Glimmer Train, Book magazine, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, which has twice awarded him the Emily Balch Prize for Best Fiction. His work was anthologized in New Stories from the South: The Year's Best, 2002 and again in 2003. A story collection, Another Perfect Catastrophe, is also published by St. Martin's Press. He has won four Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council, and a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Brad Barkley teaches creative writing at Frostburg State University. He lives in western Maryland with his wife, Mary, and two children.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Refreshing romance

    In West Virginia, thirty something widow Alison Durst remains in mourning though her husband died in an accident two years ago. Her sister Sarah and brother-in-law Bill have been supportive, but even they are tiring of Alison as a permanent, grieving guest plus they care and just want her to rebuild her life. Both believe she needs to start over first by moving into her own home............... However Alison is not ready to leave. Although she knows nothing about cars, she decides to rebuild Bill's broken-down Corvette. She will move out once she completes her task. Munitions manufacturer Max Kesler agrees to assist Alison on her quest. They begin seeing each other although his father's behavior jeopardizes this relationship before the attraction can become anything permanent................ ALISON'S AUTOMOTIVE REPAIR MANUAL is an amusing romantic romp with serious undertones that is at its best when the lead couple goes out on dates at weird locales. Her side, including her late husband, provides strong support so that the reader further understands Alison's struggles with getting on with her life. On the other hand, his father impedes the flow of a delightful tale worth reading by fans of second chance romances......... Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2003

    He has done it again

    Brilliant prose, wonderful characters, original storyline. Barkley is a talented writer. After being fortunate enough to hear him read locally, I read everything he's written. Besides being technically gifted, Barkley has a remarkable ability to create believable and charming characters, the kind you wish you could visit after you have read the last page. Barkley seems particularly astute about the joys and pains of being human. Keep writing, Mr. Barkley!!!

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