Driving Lessons
by Curtiss Ann Matlock, contemporary (2000)
MIRA, $5.99, ISBN 1-55166-599-9


This story is more of a woman's recovery from a broken marriage than a love story. Driving Lessons starts off a bit shakily, but gets into the swing of it soon after, making it a really satisfying read. And unlike many stories of the same ilk, it never dives into Soap Opera territory.

Charlene Darnell has just been dumped by her husband Joey. She now has to face a life without a husband for the first time in twenty-one years, and she wonders if it is all because of her. Where did she go wrong? Or is it he? When she gets out of her self-pity party, however, she has to start living anew, like getting a job and holding her family of three kids together. How she gets there and finds a new love in the form of Mason MacCoy, the long-waiting admirer.

Now, I really can't describe the many things that happen to Charlene or her family - it will be giving away most of the delightful aspects of this story, and readers (and the author) might want to lynch me for that. But I will say that I adore Charlene, who tries so hard to be strong. Then there's Mason, who surely gives all those men who have pined for so long a good name. Adding to the warmth are some real and wonderful secondary characters: Raine from Lost Highways, Daddy Winston and his platonic harem of absent-minded old ladies (and his rose-war with a neighbor!), and of course, the three kids.

Driving Lessons is a warm tale of family, strength, and starting life anew. I must admit the first few chapters where all Charlene does is to weep, weep, weep are pretty irritating (get a life and go show the man you can still do it, Charlene!), but when Charlene straightens up, she shines. The warm and gentle humor permeating the graceful prose only heightens its charm.

And when I find myself smiling when Charlene finally sits behind a car wheel for the first time in her life, I knew it: this story is a keeper.

Rating: 89


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