Long Drive Home

Long Drive Home

by Will Allison

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

In his riveting new novel, Will Allison, critically acclaimed author of What You Have Left, crafts an emotional and psychological drama that explores the moral ambiguities of personal responsibility as it chronicles a father’s attempt to explain himself to his daughter—even though he knows that in doing so, he risks losing her.

Life can change in an instant because of one small mistake. For Glen Bauer, all it takes is a quick jerk of the steering wheel, intended to scare a reckless driver. But the reckless driver is killed, and just like that, Glen’s placid suburban existence begins to unravel.

Written in part as a confessional letter from Glen to his daughter, Sara, Long Drive Home evokes the sharp-eyed observation of Tom Perrotta and the pathos of Dan Chaon in its trenchant portrait of contemporary American life.

When Glen realizes no one else saw the accident, he impulsively lies about what happened—to the police, to his wife, even to Sara, who was in the backseat at the time of the crash. But a tenacious detective thinks Sara might have seen more than she knows, or more than her parents will let her tell. And when Glen tries to prevent the detective from questioning Sara, he finds himself in a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game that could end in a lawsuit or prison. What he doesn’t see coming is the reaction of his wife, Liz—a panicked plan that threatens to tear their family apart in the name of saving it.

But what if the accident wasn’t really Glen’s fault? What if someone else were to blame for the turn his life has taken? It’s a question Glen can’t let go of. And as he struggles to understand the extent of his own guilt, he finds himself on yet another collision course, different in kind but with the potential to be equally devastating. Long Drive Home is a stunning cautionary tale of unintended consequences that confirms Will Allison’s growing reputation as a rising literary talent.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416543046
Publisher: Free Press
Publication date: 02/07/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 1,022,679
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Will Allison’s debut novel, What You Have Left, was selected for Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers, Borders Original Voices, and Book Sense Picks, and was named one of 2007’s notable books by the San Francisco Chronicle. His short stories have appeared in magazines such as Zoetrope: All-Story, Glimmer Train, and One Story and have received special mention in the Pushcart Prize and Best American Short Stories anthologies. He is the former executive editor of Story. Born in Columbia, South Carolina, he now lives with his wife and daughter in New Jersey. Learn more about Will Allison at www.willallison.com.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Long Drive Home includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Will Allison. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


INTRODUCTION

A happily married suburban father makes a mistake that results in a teenager’s death and sends his own life into a devastating tailspin. Written in part as a confessional letter, Long Drive Home is a cautionary tale that explores the moral ambiguities of personal responsibility as it chronicles a father’s attempt to explain himself to his daughter—even though he knows that in doing so, he risks losing her forever.

TOPICS & QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1. While driving home with his daughter, Sara, Glen Bauer engages in a showdown with a teenaged driver, Juwan Howard, that results in tragedy. Do you think the accident is all Glen’s fault? If not, how much of the blame rests with Juwan?

2. After being interrogated by the police, Glen lies to his wife, Liz, about the accident too: “I waited until we got to the restaurant to tell my version, basically the same story I’d told the police. Somehow, with Liz, it felt like even more of a lie.” (p. 30) Why doesn’t he tell her the truth? What are the ramifications?

3. Later, after Glen confesses more of the truth to Liz, she tells him, “[You] can’t really say [the accident] was your fault. You might have been involved, but that’s not the same. You were just minding your own business. He was the one breaking the law. He caused the accident.” (p. 53) How do you feel about her argument?

4. After watching Tawana, Juwan’s mother, break down at the site of the accident, Glen is consumed with guilt: “I remember feeling like it would serve me right if something terrible happened to my family too. To get what I’d given. That’s what I would have wanted, I think, if I had been in her shoes.” (p. 44) Do you think he’s right, or would Tawana have shown more forgiveness than he imagines?

5. Glen and Liz decide to attend Juwan’s funeral for very different reasons. What are they? Do you think either has an ulterior motive?

6. How do Glen’s first impressions of Juwan differ from his later impressions? Do you think his attitude toward Juwan has anything to do with race?

7. “My run-in with the Suburban guy was no more a mere footnote to the accident than the accident itself was an isolated, out-of-the-blue event. On the contrary, it had been the culmination of that whole afternoon, in which A led to B led to C.” (pp. 63-64) Do you find this line of reasoning convincing? How much do the events leading up to the accident contribute to the accident itself?

8. Glen doubts his ability to deceive Detective Rizzo: “A guilty conscious can be tricky that way: knowing I was lying made it hard to believe anyone else could believe me.” (p. 77) When do you think Rizzo first becomes suspicious of Glen?

9. “It’s about Sara,” Liz tells Glen. “Her future. I’ve worked hard to give her a good one—we both have—and I’m going to make sure she gets it.” Do you feel Liz is justified in demanding a divorce? (p. 84-85)

10. Glen doesn’t understand Liz’s behavior: “[D]espite what she said, I can’t believe the accident was the only thing she was reacting to. I think she must have been mad at me for a while, or disappointed at the way our marriage had turned out. Somehow all of that got tangled up in the decision she was making.” (p. 93) Do you think he’s right? What other factors might be involved?

11. Recalling his conversation with Tawana outside Burris’s office, Glen says, “Looking back, I suppose it must seem like I wanted to get caught.” (p. 118) Do you believe he did, subconsciously? And if so, does this subconscious urge manifest itself elsewhere in the story?

12. Structurally, Long Drive Home alternates between excerpts from Glen’s letter to Sara and passages of conventional first-person narration. Do you think Glen is a reliable narrator? Is he more, or less, reliable in the letter? Are there points at which you feel you understand Glen better than he understands himself?

13. Glen becomes increasingly obsessed with Derek Dye: “Maybe I couldn’t blame him for the accident, but if I’d been a bomb waiting to go off that day, he was the one who’d lit the fuse. He was the one who’d made me a bomb in the first place.” (p. 153) Why do you think Glen ultimately attacks Derek?

14. When Detective Rizzo confronts Glen at the bar, he accuses him of having no conscience: “It’s like you’re broke inside.” (p. 159) Do you believe Glen truly has no conscience? What would you have told the police?

ENHANCE YOUR BOOK CLUB

1. “In traffic,” writes Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic (Knopf, 2008), “we struggle to stay human.” Physically cut off from other motorists, deprived of language, we are reduced to a brand of vehicle and an anonymous license-plate number. “The more interesting question is not whether some of us are more prone to act like homicidal maniacs once we get behind the wheel but why we all act differently.” Do you agree with Vanderbilt’s assertion? What else might contribute to boorish behavior on the roads? Have you ever been involved in a road-rage incident?

2. If your book club enjoys this kind of confessional novel, try reading another, such as Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. Compare the main characters and their reasons for confessing. Do you believe confessions are, as Detective Rizzo claims, always the product of stress?

3. Try writing your own letter, confessing to something you feel guilty about. Would you ever consider sharing your letter? With whom? How did it feel to put your thoughts on paper?

A CONVERSATION WITH WILL ALLISON

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.


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.

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.


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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

What’s next for you?

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

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Long Drive Home 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 98 reviews.
TheRogueNerd More than 1 year ago
I saw a positive review for this book in a People magazine. And it wasn't just one of those small blurbs, it took up the whole page. It sounded really, really good. No spoilers, but it shows how in a matter of seconds how many lives can change because of 1 tiny decision. Anyways, I read the reviews (there weren't many) on my Nook and noticed many people commented on how short it was. So I looked at the product details and it said 224 pages (around there). Now I know Nook pages and book pages aren't the same, but usually they're in the same vicinity. Not with this book. After buying it for $9.99, it only had 132 pages on the Nook, and only 107 pages of it is the actual book. It was really, really good. It had all the makings of a great novel. But then it ends abruptly and you feel like they forgot to give you the rest of the book. I guess I should be grateful I didn't pay for an actual book, but I feel like someone gave me a taste of something excellent and then said I wasn't allowed to have anymore. If you can deal with this, buy it. Would I do it over if I could? No.
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
While, driving his daughter home from school, Glen succumbs to road rage that results in the death of a teenage driver. Although, not accused of a crime, the guilt he feels cause the dissolution of his marriage. This short novel is packed with emotion as Glen unravels from his actions, and marriage crumbles. Part of the story is his confession to his six-year old daughter through letters. Will Allison's novel makes the reader think about what one's actions. I found it enjoyable and read it in one sitting. When finishing though, I was wanting more.
BRENNA O'Malley More than 1 year ago
This is the same exact cover as the book mocking bird, at first i thought it was a sequel but now i realize its not also the book is pretty much on the same subject...?
BookHounds More than 1 year ago
Glen writes his daughter, Sara, a letter explaining what went wrong in his marriage to Liz and the events that lead up to their divorce. The letter is interspersed with the story of that time period. In a way, Glen is asking his daughter for forgiveness and trying to make thing right when he lies and tries to make her believe that the accident she witnessed as a six year old didn't happen the way it really did. Glen and his wife try to cover up his involvement in the accident by lying to the police when questioned about exactly how the accident occurred. I just really got a uneasy feeling from the actions of both these characters, especially his lawyer wife, Liz, who immediately wants a divorce to protect their assets. In parts, this book really creeped me out. The crux of the whole story centers around the accident where Glen tries to scare a wreckless driver by swerving a bit in front of him to stop his erratic speeding and instead the car rolls, killing the teen driver. Sara sitting in the backseat remembers details but not everything, she knows just enough to really incriminate her father. The main part that really bothered me about this accident is that, yes, Glen is partially at fault for the accident, but it would have not been as severe or even avoided, if the teen had been driving safely. The police who question him really seem to be out to get him since they know he is lying. Glen also is incredibly immature and this is shown in great detail when he stalks another driver who threatens him after a previous run in right before the accident. The story really brings to light how little things can add up to create a monsterous problem.
Cody_ More than 1 year ago
This book, although short, is definitely worth both your time and money. With strong character personalities it's easy to lose yourself in this novel. The book will really make you think twice before you do anything, even if you think it's the right choice at the time. One little mishap could happen to change your entire life forever. This is what you'd call a "real-life" book. I didn't read any reviews before I bought this book, so I was quite surprised when I saw this book's ratings. This book is MUCH better than these reviews may lead on. I am more than glad to say this has been a really good, short read and that I would definitely recommend this book to a friend.
BloomNookFan More than 1 year ago
Quite possibly one of the most annoyingly stupid protagonists in literary history.
txwildflower on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If only we could take back some of the decisions we make in life. That's what the character Glen Bauer thinks as his world shatters after he makes one bad mistake......lying about an accident in which a young boy was killed. His marriage falls apart and his daughter looks at him in a different way. He once had everything and then he has nothing. I will look up this author's first book "What You Have Left" and put it on my to-read list.
CentralCaliGrrrl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Glen Bauer writes a letter to his daughter, asking her for forgiveness. But Glen¿s not even sure he deserves it. You see, Glen killed a man. He didn¿t intend to, but accidents do happen¿Long Drive Home by Will Allison is an incredibly tortured narrative told in the first person from Glen¿s point of view. It¿s the type of tense and emotional story that stays with you long after the last page has been read. Mr. Allison explores a very uncomfortable subject. In all honesty, the tragically pivotal moment in this book could happen to any of us. None of us are perfect. One little slip, one single lapse in judgment can change a person's life forever, sometimes for the worse. Long Drive Home tells the tale of a man, running from his guilt and hoping to find absolution at the end of the road. Does he find it? Sorry -- no spoilers here!(Received complimentary copy for review purposes only.)
jewelknits on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Narrator Glen Bauer opens this story with a letter to his daughter Sara, 8 years old and 6 at the beginning of the events of this novel. The letter is written to be given to her much later, when she is able to understand and forgive.We've all had those days - someone cuts you off in traffic and then flips YOU off; a bicycle rider suddenly veers in front of you, causing you to suddenly hit your brakes; then you head out to the highway where someone is riding your tail in the right hand lane at 60 MPH - you may just tap your brakes to give them a little wake-up call. Harmless, really .. after being frustrated by inconsiderate drivers and dangerous moves, you just want SOMEone to pay a bit of attention to what they're doing, right?Glen, who runs a small accounting business from home, has a very bad driving day - with his daughter in the car - one in which another driver confronts him and flashes a gun in his waistband. Then a second encounter with a different driver causes him to make that "little" gesture ... kind of like tapping the brakes - only the other driver is now dead.It really could happen to many of us. And if the police only look at you as a witness, would you admit to your part in it? This narrative shows us how one wrong move can change the course of our lives from better to worse; utterly absorbing and believable, I was drawn in to the pages from beginning to end. A most excellent read.QUOTE (from a galley; may be different in final copy): I remember telling myself people didn't go to prison for accidents. Then again, just because I hadn't meant to hurt anyone didn't mean what I'd done was accidental.Book Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
laluna179 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is about how a simple impulsive act can make ones life spiral out of control. One lie turns into more and guilt threatens to destroy an otherwise happy family. This was a good, short read that left me thinking about the ending. It has one of those endings that can be interpreted in multiple ways. It doesn't come right out and tell you what happens.
Kristinjordan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So disappointing. I was so excited to get this book from the library. The premise is great, who hasn't had road rage, but that is about as far as it gets. The characters become annoying and the ending was just awful. I also didn't like the fact that the last 20 pages of the book were a preview of the author's new novel. Not worth your time.
Mathenam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The premise of this book was great, in theory. Who hasn't had a moment of road rage they wish they could take back? The story is told partly through letters to the daughter, who witnessed the accident. The father feels extremely guilty, but does nothing to ease his guilt. The ending is extremely open-ended, and doesn't resolve anything.
mestahler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I finished the book but skimmed the middle. It is about a man who lies about a car accident and the lies he has to tell to support that lie and then his life falls apart. Depressing.
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