Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Long Drive Home by Will Allison

Long Drive Home: A Novel

About the Book:

From Publishers Weekly (via Amazon):  Allison follows What You Have Left with a tight drama, part psychological thriller, part tragedy. Glen is an accountant living in New Jersey with his successful wife, Liz, and their six-year-old daughter, Sara. On an ordinary drive home from school, a series of mundane decisions grow increasingly dire and culminate in a car accident that sets road-raging Glen onto a path of deception and self-destruction. The novel is told from Glen’s perspective, in part through a confessional letter written to Sara, an obvious but nonetheless effective tension builder. It’s a slow burn as guilt chips away at Glen’s sanity and his marriage crumbles, his impotent angst finds an unlikely outlet, and he comes under ever more scrutiny by a strangely motivated detective. Allison’s triumph is the skillful rendering of Glen’s transformation as a basically good guy whose fatal flaw leads him to a cataclysmically stupid decision. And while other characters fare less well—the cop on Glen’s tail is straight out of an airport thriller, and Liz isn’t given the chance to break through her mercenary and fundamentally unpleasant mold—Allison’s effortless prose and playful genre mixing showcase a burgeoning talent. (May)
© Copyright Pwxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

My Review:

            Sins of the father and the innocence of a child; oh, what a tangle web we weave, when at first we do deceive. I read this book in one sitting. It was a book that I could not make myself put down. It held me spellbound. It brought back thoughts of things I have done that could have taken a very wrong turn. I guess that makes this confession time.
            I live along a bayou that runs to the gulf; one road in, and one road out. Due to a bridge closure, the traffic has been very heavy. I was on my way back from the market the other day and a truck came up behind me at a higher rate of speed, and began following very close. The driver was driving erratically and it was making me nervous. It is a two-lane highway and very few passing straight aways. You can only drive as fast or as slow as the car in front of you. It is a test for any person’s patience and this day was no different. I normally show my brake lights and slow down a little to get the vehicle behind me to back off a little. It gets the other driver’s attention and they realize that they are a little too close. That morning, the driver was extremely aggressive and the first opportunity he had, he roared past me, cut back in front of me nearly clipping my vehicle and slammed on his brakes. Fortunately, my instincts had kicked in as he was passing me and I backed off for my safety. When he cut back in and slammed his brakes, I was stilled forced to slam on my brakes in order to avoid hitting him. He then floored it and proceeded to pass two more cars. A simple tactic, meant to garner attention to safety, which has worked so many times in the past, pushed someone over the edge.
            I was stunned. As my mind began to organize my thoughts, all of the scenarios of what could have happened began flashing through my brain. That is what this book is about; the consequences of our actions, how the most mundane or unusual happenings have an effect on our reactions to everything else for the rest of the day. It is about how rage, in its smallest form, can have catastrophic consequences on our own lives, and those who are dearest to us. I found myself, repeatedly, holding my breath, and having to remind myself to breathe as I was reading this book. The characters are so real. The character’s reactions are so real. As I sat there with this book in my hands, I felt as though I could have been reading about my own life; I think you will too.
            I am giving this book the highest rating. If you would like to read this book, you may purchase it by clicking on the Amazon icon below. 
           Disclaimer / Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book with no obligation for a positive review. No compensation - monetary or in kind - has been obtained for this post. Cover art and book description courtesy of the author, publisher or PR firm.

A Conversation with Will Allison

Author of LONG DRIVE HOME: A Novel
(Free Press; May 17, 2011)

1.  Your first novel, What You Have Left, has three viewpoint characters and moves back and forth in time. Long Drive Home has one viewpoint character and proceeds, for the most part, chronologically. Did you make a decision at the outset to structure this novel differently?   

I did. I wanted to write a book with a strong sense of tension and narrative momentum—more of page-turner—but one that’s still character-based, where plot is a function of character and not vice versa.

2.  When you were executive editor of Story magazine, thousand of submissions must have crossed your desk. How did your editorial work influence your writing?   

Reading through the submissions—we averaged about 50 a day—I was constantly reminded of the importance of 1) giving the reader a reason to care, and 2) keeping the story moving. I write with an acute awareness that readers have a lot of other things they could be doing besides reading my book.

3.  Where did the idea for the novel come from?

I live in New Jersey, in a quiet neighborhood much like the one described in the book—lots of kids, joggers, people walking their dogs. One morning a few years ago, I went out to get the newspaper. A car came flying down the street, going probably twice the speed limit. I remember picking up the paper and thinking I’d like to chuck it at the guy’s windshield, give him a scare. Then I thought, “You’re an idiot, Will. You could kill someone.” Then I thought, “But what if no one saw?” That was the seed of the story.

4.  Is the book autobiographical?

No. The circumstances of Glen’s life are similar to my own—I work at home; my wife works in the city; we have a young daughter; we moved here from the Midwest; etc.—but the characters and plot are wholly invented.

5.  Has your daughter read the book?

No. She’s only nine. Some of the language isn’t appropriate. Also, I’d hate for her to conflate me with Glen. She knows what the book is about, though. On the way to and from school, when I was writing it, she’d ask what part of the story I was working on. She gave me a lot of input. She still thinks Sara’s name should have been spelled “Sarah.”

6.  Is the traffic in New Jersey really as bad as Glen says?          

It seemed pretty bad to me, coming from the Midwest. I did some research when I started the book. New Jersey is the nation’s most congested state and has the highest pedestrian fatality rate. A 2006 study found that northern New Jersey has four of the ten most dangerous American cities to drive in—all within fifteen miles of where the story takes place. And a 2008 study ranked New Jersey drivers dead last in their knowledge of basic safety and traffic laws.

7.  Was the accident investigation based on a real case?

No, but I did get a lot of help from Detective Arnold Anderson, who recently retired from the Essex County Prosecutors Fatal Accident Unit. Andy read an early draft of the book and very patiently answered my questions. I remember being nervous when I first got in touch with him and said I was writing a book about a guy who tries to cover up his involvement in an accident. I thought Andy might think that’s what I was doing. He told me later that, yes, he did check up on me after that first phone call, to make sure I was really a writer.

8.  Was there any kind of moral you were aiming to impart in Long Drive Home?

I was very interested in the moral implications of Glen’s actions, particularly how he justified—and was later affected by—doing things he himself believed to be morally wrong. But no, I intended no moral lesson for the reader, only moral questions.
9.  How much compassion do you expect the reader to show Glen?

Obviously, Glen makes some terrible mistakes. But I do hope readers will put themselves in his shoes. That’s why I chose to tell the story from his viewpoint. If the story had been told from Rizzo’s or Tawana’s viewpoint, Glen might have come off as a clear-cut villain. That to me would have been less interesting.

10.  What’s next for you?

Another novel, one that may or may not revisit the characters in Long Drive Home.

You can find Will Allison Fan Page on Face book.

 Product Details

·       Hardcover: 224 pages
·       Publisher: Free Press; Original edition (May 17, 2011)
·       Language: English
·       ISBN-10: 1416543031
·       ISBN-13: 978-1416543039
·       Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces 


  1. Sounds excellent. Character driven, page turners are the books I love.

    Thanks for the review and the interview. Very well done.

  2. Hi Donna,
    Great review!
    We all have a "road rage" story to tell, don't we? I guess that's what made this book so gut-wrenching.
    I'm a new follower!

  3. I'm a new follower and so excited to be here! I have serious blog envy--great background. =)

    And thanks for the review. I'm intrigued...

  4. I'm with you on this one. The ONLY reason I didn't read it through in only one sitting was because it was an eGalley, and I don't have a reader, so sitting in front of my PC is not my favorite reading experience. I haven't posted my review yet, but a 5-star is probably in the works!

  5. I enjoyed your review. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I was pleasantly surprised by how compelling this novel was. I had to laugh about the description of NJ drivers though because my husband, who grew up in NJ but didn't actually do much driving there, claims that Utah drivers are actually the worst.

    I'm a new follower.

  6. Hi Donna,

    Loved your review. I couldn't put the book down either.
    It's such a relatable book since most of us have been in situations like this.

    I love the blog. I'm a new follower. :)


  7. Thank you all for reading my review and commenting as well as following. It was a great book and I have enjoyed reading everyone's reviews on it. Donna


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