In reviewing The Red Car for the New York Times – Fast and Furious – Daniel Handler noted “There is, now, a literary term for a book you can’t stop reading that makes you stop to think. It is “The Red Car.” And that’s just what happened to me when I read it.
After finishing The Red Car, I felt like Leah, the main character, riding in a car with its own mind – taking me on its own journey – for my own good. My first thoughts were not to review but to remember. You might want to skip this “aside” and go straight to the review below – but like Leah riding in the red car, I just had to write it.
I remember waking up one day and noticing I was not wearing earrings. When had I stopped? Then I remembered; it was when my baby took to pulling them off my ears and I worried about her swallowing them. Now she was grown and had pierced ears, but I still forgot to look at my own ears.
It was a wake-up call, as though I had been someone else all those years, dreaming through life, pretending to have it all together and rushing around trying to keep everyone happy – my daughter, my husband, my dissertation committee, my students, my mother. It never occurred to me to keep myself happy.
Much later, it happened again. This time I was older and about to enter another decade – without the responsibilities of parenthood and career. I decided to get my ears pierced – a tribute to five decades of meeting expectations. For a while, I was happy, until once again I fell into the mode of responsibility. It still seems difficult to make decisions only for myself. I could blame my Catholic schooling or my strict Italian father. I could wonder what if, as we all do periodically, especially when life seems unbearable. I should just be grateful – so many have a much poorer life.
Maybe someday someone will leave me a red car to jolt me.
Marcy Dermansky’s short novel – The Red Car – will lead you on a wild ride, but possibly leave you with an urging to reexamine your life. When her former boss dies and leaves her red sports car and some money to Leah, a budding novelist, Leah revisits her old life, discovers strands of unfinished business and the courage to find her own happiness. A quick read, The Red Car offers a philosophic look to sleepwalking through life, with the same quirky, humorous, yet disarming grounding as Where’d You Go Bernadette? It’s no wonder Maria Semple highly recommended this new book. Read it in a sitting, but be prepared to think about it longer.