DRIVEN by Melissa Stephenson
Kirkus Star


A White-Knuckled Ride to Heartbreak and Back
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A debut memoir that explores a woman’s relationship with her family and dead brother through the cars that came into their lives.

Vehicles seemed to mark every major event in Indiana native Stephenson’s family. Her father began dating her mother just after he bought a used Chevy; her mother lost both her father and beloved boyfriend to automobile accidents; and her younger brother Matthew was born just after her parents settled on a Toyota sedan to replace the Fiat Stephenson’s father had bought on a whim. Later, after Matthew committed suicide in 2000, the author took possession of his truck, “the only thing of material value my brother left behind.” The author begins the book around the time of her childhood, before her parents “bootstrapped [their] way over the poverty line and into a facsimile of a middle-class lifestyle.” Her most important relationship was with Matthew, whose love/hate feelings for her were “complicated at best.” Their shared desire to escape the Midwest took them on road trips and to schools outside Indiana and brought them into contact with the vehicles—Saabs, Fords, Vanagons—that defined their respective youths. But where Stephenson’s travels led to her finding a stable husband and her calling as a writer, Matthew’s travels led down dark roads that included alcohol and drug abuse and a brief, destructive marriage to Corey Parks, the notorious bass player for Nashville Pussy. Yet no one in the family knew just how troubled her brother was until he took his life. Shaken to the core, Stephenson freed herself from the wreckage of Matthew’s suicide by driving straight into the heart of family dysfunction and coming to terms with the unwitting role she and her family had played in his death. Lyrical and eloquent, Stephenson’s book is a journey of pain, beauty, and healing that also celebrates the life of her tragically misunderstood brother.

Raw, tender, and uniquely envisioned.

Pub Date: July 24th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-328-76829-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2018


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