Driving Alone by Kevin Lynn Helmick
Author: Kevin Lynn Helmick
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Georgia / Hitchhiker / Southern Gothic / Southern Noir)
Publisher/Publication Date: Blank Slate Press (12/1/12)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: Liked a good deal.
Did I finish?: Yes, in an hour or so.
One-sentence summary: A young man from Georgia flees his small home town only to return with a gorgeous hitchhiker, compelled for reasons he doesn't understand, facing uncomfortable questions about himself and his life.
Do I like the cover?: I've no strong feelings one way or the other. It fits the feel of the story well.
First line: And then there was the heat.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, especially if you love gritty Southern settings and irredeemable main characters.
Why did I get this book?: The noir-like elements.
Review: This skinny novella packs a punch and drowns you in the sticky, gritty, depressing ambiance of south Georgia, small towns, and one angry man.
Billy Keyhoe is in his late 20s and on the run, only the way he sees it, he's cutting town for something better. But not without making more of a mess -- robbing a gas station and getting shot at -- and as he races out of town for Texas, he picks up a gorgeous young hitchhiker named Feather.
Feather provokes him in more than one way, bringing out the best and the worst in him over the duration of a few nights. Despite his vow to leave Waycross, his childhood hometown, he returns with Feather -- ostensibly just to pass through on his way to Savannah -- and has to face up a few hard truths.
I zipped through this book in a matter of hours, sucked into the sticky, hot world of south Georgia, unable to look away from Billy and his very bad business.
Billy is an unlikeable character -- he's done horrible things -- but he's experienced equally horrible things, and Helmick shares both without apology or emotion. Gorgeous Feather, unreasonably sexy and able to tease out the things that bother Billy the most, is a foil or a reflection of everything Billy fails at, giving the reader a chance to see into Billy and his psyche.
It's up to the reader to decide if he can be saved; Helmick doesn't make it easy for one to fall into sympathy with Billy. There's an allegorical feel to the book, a kind of cinematic twist that approaches steadily, and I found myself unsure if I wanted a 'happy' end for Billy. But like all good noir, it left me feeling a bit uneasy, unsettled, and that made me happy.
*** *** ***
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