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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.
"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.
Posted December 9, 2008
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 KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 26, 2003
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!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.