Friday, June 15, 2012

"Reckless Driver," by Lisa Vice

I read “Reckless Driver” (Plume, 1995), by Lisa Vice, because the author is the wife of a friend. I had a little bit of that feeling one has when reading something by a friend, or a relative or friend of a friend: “What if it I don’t like it? What will I say to my friend?” Fortunately, in this case I didn’t have to worry, because the book is wonderful. It is beautifully written and the characters are perfectly drawn. Most of the story is told in the voice of a young girl, Lana. She tells of her family -- her father, her mother, and her older (teenaged) sister Abbie -- and of her neighbors in their small town in Indiana in the 1960s. The family is rather poor, although hanging on, so one focus of the novel is social class. The larger focus is how helpless children are in their homes and lives, how vulnerable they are. In this case, the father -- called “The Old Man” by the girls -- loves his daughters but is (it soon becomes clear) mentally disturbed -- probably at least partly because of his war service and experiences -- and abusive. The girls even fantasize about his death, although Lana feels -- despite everything -- a sort of residual love and loyalty to him. Their mother is unhappy in her marriage, cheerfully unfaithful to her husband, and -- although she seems to love them -- does very little to protect the girls from their father. The story is profoundly sad. Yet there are moments of happiness, of love and of fun. Despite everything, the voices of the girls are surprisingly strong and even resilient. Lana especially seems to have an unquenchable spirit; some of this may be due to a caring neighbor, Marvella, who unobtrusively but consistently watches out for Lana. I must say that this book was depressing to read, yet it was compelling, with surprising notes of hope.


  1. Hi, my name is Daniel YangHsien Tserng.
    I studied with Lisa back in College years ago.
    I've lost contact with Lisa for almost twenty years.
    May I ask you is there any way that I can get in touch with her again?

    1. Daniel, I will forward your comment to my friend, and ask how you could get in touch with Lisa. In the meanwhile, perhaps you could send me your email address through my email address ( and I could forward that to my friend to forward to Lisa.


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