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Learning to Drive : A Novel by Mary Hays
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Learning to Drive : A Novel

by Mary Hays

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Raised as a Christian Scientist in upstate New York, Charlotte McGuffey has always striven to be perfect and has trusted the power of her thoughts to protect her from life’s troubles. But when her newly estranged husband dies on a trip out of town, leaving her to raise their two young sons on her own, Charlotte realizes that her problems are too complex for her to master with the power of her mind alone. Accompanied by her boys, Charlotte goes to the family’s summer home in Beede, Vermont, where her husband, Mel, was last seen alive, to look for answers about his final days and to grapple with her feelings of confusion and guilt surrounding his death. As Charlotte explores this new world, she is befriended by her neighbors in Beede—a colorful lot who are concerned, helpful, very human, and decidedly imperfect. Among them are a kind and perceptive postmistress/reporter, a garrulous caretaker, and an unlikely suitor—a joyous and charismatic artist at war with conventional thinking. In this eclectic environment, Charlotte begins to explore her own feelings and question the fundamental beliefs she’s accepted her whole life. To triumph, she must untangle her family’s doctored past and brave encounters with painful truths she has never wanted to face. In this bighearted, lush, and graceful debut novel, Mary Hays portrays the strength of the human spirit in times of crisis and the ways in which community can foster individual growth. Learning to Drive stakes claim to a world in which all things solid seem to shape-shift, people juggle reality to fit their beliefs, and women are deeply passionate about the choices they make.… (more)

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Charlotte McGuffey, a Christian Scientist housewife in the 1950's, tells her husband she wants a divorce days before his death in a car accident. The rest of the novel plays out around her efforts to look for answers about his death (and her own place in life) as she and her two young boys (one clearly autistic) relocate to the family summer home where her husband met his end. As she tries to connect the dots of her own troubled life, a charming rogue of an artist comes into her life, further complicating her life. It also further complicates a sort of aimless story that only partially redeems itself with a conclusion that focuses on Charlotte's hidden strengths coming to the fore when they're most needed. But for the most part, this is a fairly meandering story with too many aspects, each of which might have made for a simpler and better story on their own. ( )
  burnit99 | Oct 11, 2011 |
This book follows Charlotte McGuffey as she learns more about herself following the death of her husband. The most moving part in the story was the refusal of the mother and the sister to get treatment for curable diseases when they were dying because of their beliefs (they were christian scientists). The deaths of these two characters and the reaization thast her son has autism lead Charlotte to reconsider and eventually renounce her faith. She realizes and accepts that there are problems in the world. This makes her stronger and enables her to grow and find a new love. At the end there was an ironoic twist about the son's autism. ( )
  kateh | Oct 28, 2006 |
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The world of Christian Science healing forms the backdrop for this story about grief and the conflict between religious faith and physical experience.
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