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The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances: A Memoir (2009)

by Mark Millhone

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A man reconnects with his dad and finds his way back from a year filled with tragedy and loss in this touching memoir that puts a humorous cast on some of life’s darkest moments...

Mark Millhone has just had the worst nine-months of his life. His youngest son, Benny, almost died from birth complications. His emotionally distant father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His neurotic mother died of a heart attack. His son was mauled by the family dog. And his once idyllic marriage is slowly coming apart at the seams.

What is a guy to do?

Why, what any other red-blooded American man would do! Late one night, Millhone logged on to "The Patron Saint of Used Cars" aka EBAY and bid on a vintage BMW. Loading up the kids and wife, Millhone drops them off with her parents in upstate New York and heads to Texas. There, with his Dad, he picks up the car and commences on a road trip to find himself, a little perspective, and the sheer will to just keep going on.

Mark Millhone pulls no punches in this wry, hilarious and heartfelt look at the worst year of his life. It is a unique male perspective on marriage, child-rearing, loss, love and rekindling the romance in a faltering relationship but it will appeal to both sexes without a doubt. I really enjoyed this little book and laughed, and cried, along with Millhone every 'mile' of the way. ( )
  capriciousreader | Mar 20, 2018 |
Review of Audiobook version. Mark Milhone's caustic and sometimes humorous take as his family survives the Year From Hell. Perhaps the humor didn't translate as well in the audio version. Milhone's humor barely concealed his just under the surface anger. His growing appreciation and understanding of his oft derided father, in my opinion, is one of the best parts of the book. Despite his travails, the book ends on a hopeful note. ( )
  michigantrumpet | Jul 25, 2011 |
Two memoirs in one! A father-son road trip to buy a used car frames the story of a family’s year of crisis. ( )
  roseread | Sep 2, 2010 |
Mark Millhone loves vintage cars. Browsing eBay Motors one night, he finds the perfect car, a vintage BMW in perfect condition. Even though his family has gone through a year of one crisis after another and his marriage is starting to fray, he decides to buy it, only to find out he has to drive it from Texas back to New York. His wife is obviously not happy with the situation. He invites his workaholic, distant father to come with him on the trip. On his travels, can he achieve the perspective needed to save his marriage and his family or is it just a waste of time and money?

Mark Millhone's family could be anyone's family. Between the death of his mother, his son being mauled by a dog, his other son's birth complications, among other events, it's no wonder his family is falling apart. He deals with serious situations with humor, not as if they don't mean anything to him, but as a defense mechanism. The humor and the conversational language in which the novel is written sucks the reader in and commands attention.

The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances is a travel narrative. Mark physically travels from Texas to his home in New York, but it's also a travel narrative through his life. One of my favorite aspects of this book is that the unfolding of his past happens by going off on a tangent based on some innocuous happening during the travels. This provides a depth and background to the characters as the story unfolds. The book is easy to follow, despite the changes from the present to the past, which really shows the talent of the writer.

This novel is engaging and invokes many emotions. There are many universal truths seen in Mark's family, making this book easy for anyone to relate to. ( )
  titania86 | Aug 10, 2009 |
The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances is Millhone’s chronicle of his journey back to life and his reflections on marriage, fatherhood, and family. It is at turns cringe-inducing, laugh-out-loud funny, depressing, and ultimately hopeful. Millhone’s life is far from perfect, but he refuses to give up. He takes brave steps to confront his personal issues and the problems in his marriage and to support his wife in doing the same.

Like his life, the book is also not quite perfect. The whole my-life-fell-apart-and-I-wrote-a-book-about-it thing is becoming a bit overdone in my eyes, but Patron Saint is a quick, well-balanced read that fans of humorous memoirs and wry humor will find enjoyable.

Read my full review at The Book Lady's Blog. ( )
  bnbooklady | Aug 6, 2009 |
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for my family
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My wife and I had an open marriage.
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In the course of one nine-month period, filmmaker Mark Millhone's youngest son nearly died from birth complications, his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer, his mother had a heart attack and passed away, a freak illness claimed the life of a friend, and his career imploded. As a result of his membership in what he calls the tragedy-of-the-month club, his marriage begins to fray. Millhone responded to the chaos as many men might: he logged on to eBay and bid on a vintage BMW, his fantasy car, but not exactly an easy fit with his family's finances. As if sharing the news that he'd won the auction with his already-peeved wife weren't bad enough, it turned out that he had to travel from New York to Texas to collect the car. His estranged dad joined him, and they embarked upon a dysfunctional road trip, a comedy of errors lending Millhone the perspective he needed to save his marriage and to understand what was really important in his life: his family.… (more)

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