Dignan’s debut fictional account of a man who works to realize a passionate boyhood dream: to be a winning race car driver.
The novel opens with an elderly John Powers at the end of his life alone in a hospital, then flashes back to tell the story of one life gone wrong before ending on the more positive note of a second chance. The teenage Johnny—aka “Powerhouse”—loves and cares for his younger sister with Down syndrome, adopts a lost puppy and forms a deep bond with family friend “Pop,” who serves as his mentor. The writing is unvarnished and the dialogue realistic. Early on we get a glimpse of Johnny’s competitive instinct: “Johnny peered up derby hill and made a crucial decision. From that point on, he would accept nothing short of winning.” But he keeps the need to be first from dominating his personality. Johnny’s likable. When he suffers the tragic loss of his sister, he suffers profoundly—he mourns her and the fact that he didn’t get to say goodbye or tell her he loved her. But when he becomes a father before he’s ready, his personal need for glory takes over. He loves and wants to marry his high school sweetheart, but his passion for racing comes first. Always on the road, following the racing circuit, he allows this passion to interfere with his responsibilities to his family. When he allows his passion for winning to push him into doing serious lasting harm to another racer on the track, the scene is heart-wrenching. In revealing the complicated inner workings of Johnny, Dignan delivers a novel of psychological insight.
A moving, well-written novel about love, sacrifice and NASCAR.