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Driving Lessons: A Novel

Driving Lessons: A Novel

5.0 2
by Zoe Fishman

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Sometimes life's most fulfilling journeys begin without a map

An executive at a New York cosmetics firm, Sarah has had her fill of the interminable hustle of the big city. When her husband, Josh, is offered a new job in suburban Virginia, it feels like the perfect chance to shift gears.

While Josh quickly adapts to their new life, Sarah discovers that having


Sometimes life's most fulfilling journeys begin without a map

An executive at a New York cosmetics firm, Sarah has had her fill of the interminable hustle of the big city. When her husband, Josh, is offered a new job in suburban Virginia, it feels like the perfect chance to shift gears.

While Josh quickly adapts to their new life, Sarah discovers that having time on her hands is a mixed blessing. Without her everyday urban struggles, who is she? And how can she explain to Josh, who assumes they are on the same page, her ambivalence about starting a family?

It doesn't help that the idea of getting behind the wheel—an absolute necessity of her new life—makes it hard for Sarah to breathe. It's been almost twenty years since she's driven, and just the thought of merging is enough to make her teeth chatter with anxiety. When she signs up for lessons, she begins to feel a bit more like her old self again, but she's still unsure of where she wants to go.

Then a crisis involving her best friend lands Sarah back in New York—a trip to the past filled with unexpected truths about herself, her dear friend, and her seemingly perfect sister-in-law . . . and an astonishing surprise that will help her see the way ahead.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Fishman's latest (Saving Ruth), a former marketing director uproots her life in Brooklyn, New York to move to Farmwood, Virginia for her husband's new teaching position, thinking it's the perfect opportunity to slow down and discover what she wants out of life. Sarah already knows what her husband wants, "Whenever Josh brought up babies, a giant clock descended from the sky and hovered over my head like a UFO," but finding herself proves harder than overcoming her fear of driving. While Josh finds contentment being a professor for a small liberal arts college, Sarah struggles through driving lessons, missing her best friend Mona, finding work that isn't menial, and ignoring her husband's booming biological clock. When Mona is diagnosed with cervical cancer, Sarah uproots her life once more to return to New York and care for her friend. While there, Sarah connects with her sister-in-law and falls in love with her baby nephew, witnessing firsthand the joy and exhaustion of being a new mom. As one friend faces the possibility of never having children, and another acclimates to the intense ups and downs of motherhood, Sarah faces her biggest fear and decides what she wants. While the ending won't shock, Fishman effectively balances humor and tension, crafting an involving portrayal of three women coping with the idea and obstacles of motherhood. Agent: Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary. (Apr.)
RT Book Reviews
“Fishman’s sweetly told tale will resonate with readers who desire change in their lives, but it will also touch the hearts of others… believable and authentic.”
Jessica Anya Blau
A wonderful, witty, and heartfelt journey through some of life’s biggest challenges: marriage, moving, making babies and more
Shelly Noble
“A charming and warm story about new adventures and old friends and how this likable heroine learns to embrace them both.”
Jillian Medoff
“Insightful and emotionally astute…Fishman demonstrates a rare gift for illuminating the interior lives of women with honesty, generosity and a whole lot of heart.”
Meg Donohue
“At turns funny and poignant, Driving Lessons is a refreshingly honest and insightful story of a woman whose questions about the direction of her life follow her from the big city to small country roads.”
Library Journal
As a high-powered executive at a top cosmetics firm, newlywed Sarah seems to have all the glitz and glamour and a paycheck to go with it until her husband, Josh, is offered a professorship at a small Virginia college. Long accustomed to city life, Sarah hopes the move will be a fresh start for her. She is unsettled in her career and even more nervous at the thought of impending parenthood. In addition, Sarah must face her deep fear of driving with the help of a grandfather-like instructor who ends up leading her down new paths. In the midst of coming to terms with her new life, she returns to New York to help her best friend through an emergency situation. During her journey, Sarah makes fresh discoveries about herself, her career path, and the possibilities of life. VERDICT Although the characters are likable, Fishman's (Balancing Acts) latest novel offers a surface-level look at deeper issues such as cancer and the transitions in women's lives. Readers searching for a more in-depth read on these issues may appreciate Jodi Picoult's Sing You Home and Elizabeth Berg's Talk Before Sleep.—Julia M. Reffner, Fairport, NY
Kirkus Reviews
A New Yorker's move to the South generates life lessons, and far too many platitudes, in Fishman's (Saving Ruth, 2012, etc.) third novel. Sarah, 36, doesn't mind moving from Brooklyn to Virginia, trailing her husband, Josh, who's been offered a professorship. She's burned out on her high-powered marketing job at a cosmetics firm; her snide, short-tempered boss; and her tiny walk-up apartment. Perhaps living in suburban Farmwood will help her come to grips with life's burning questions: What next? What was she put on this earth to do? Now that she has time off work, but limited time left on her biological clock, should she and Josh procreate before it's too late? For a while, this seems to be a fish-out-of-water Manhattan transplant story: Living in a public-transportation desert, Sarah needs to overcome her fear of driving, and she needs to get out of the house. At Farmwood's closest approximation of a shopping district (a tacky strip mall), she finds a job at a kitschy costume-jewelry shop, Bauble Head. And she takes driving lessons from a man in a mouse-mobile. (Don't ask.) Before these veins of potential humor can be tapped, though, Sarah's back in Brooklyn, nursing her best friend, Mona, who has cancer and must undergo a hysterectomy. Mona is worried that her new boyfriend, Nate, will flee when Mona tells him she can't have kids. While Mona has carpe diem, pre-surgery sex with Nate, Sarah babysits for Josh's brother Ben and his wife. Ignoring both the chaos introduced by her newborn nephew's arrival and her sister-in-law's graphic warnings about labor, Sarah loses all her reservations about motherhood—never convincingly portrayed—as soon as her period is delayed. Any conflict is further dulled by endless stretches of preachy dialogue as the characters discuss, but never seriously debate, assorted parenthood issues. What begins as a witty critique of the Mommy Trap ends as a sanctimonious screed.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Product dimensions:
7.80(w) x 5.20(h) x 1.10(d)

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Meet the Author

Zoe Fishman is the author of Driving Lessons, Saving Ruth, and Balancing Acts. Her books have been translated into German, Italian, Dutch and Polish. She’s the recipient of many awards, including Target’s Breakout and Emerging Author Picks, a New York Post Pick, and has been featured on NBC’s “Atlanta & Co.” as well as in Publishers Weekly and The Huffington Post. She is currently at work on her next novel, as well as teaching writing at The Callanwolde Fine Arts Center. Zoe lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons.

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Driving Lessons 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Never written a review before but I couldn't put this book down! I appreciated the characters' situations since I recently dealt with a hysterectomy myself in my mid-twenties. I never cry over books but Fishman got me too and to me that signifies that the author did a great job conveying her story and getting me to care about her characters.