Long Drive Home
Glen Bauer is a likable Everyman whose cozy life takes a sudden, sharp turn on a late October afternoon as he's driving his adored six-year-old daughter, Sara, home from school.
He and his wife, Liz, are quite satisfied with their lives together in South Orange, New Jersey. Liz commutes by train to a well-paying bank job, while Glen works out of their home as a tax consultant, which gives him plenty of time with Sara, his favorite person in the world. Glen drives Sara the 25-minute trip to and from her private school each day. This daily drive irritates him, even though he enjoys his daughter's company, because it seems that all around him are reckless and unskilled drivers. So he is already obsessed with traffic when the first incident occurs --- the one that is the first domino in a chain-reaction to disaster.
"I defy anyone to read this novel and not feel a terrible, soul-stirring empathy. It seems that a good book transports and entertains us, while a truly excellent read has the power to change us in some profound way. This story certainly qualifies as excellent."
As a traffic light changes, Glen must stop suddenly. He doesn't realize there's a police car behind him until he glances in his rear-view mirror. He can tell that the police officer is angry, but he can't believe what the cop does next. As if he is above the law, the officer reverses and passes Glen's car, driving through the intersection and the red light. Glen is angry: Just who does the cop think he is? Obviously, without sirens and lights, it's not an urgent matter. The police officer simply drove around Glen because he could. Impulsively, Glen flips him off. The officer, either oblivious or uncaring, drives away.
However, another driver takes offense, believing the rude gesture is meant for him. The very large stranger stops his Suburban, leaps out and approaches Glen's car, demanding to know if Glen was flipping him off. When Glen dismisses it, saying he was gesturing to the officer, the driver insists Glen apologize. Even while he placates Sara, sitting in the backseat, he grits his teeth, not wanting to express regret for something he hasn't done. The driver then reveals a gun, provoking an instant apology from a suddenly terrified Glen. After the irate driver leaves, Glen reassures Sara before stepping out of the car to dial 911. Then he realizes that since he didn't get a license plate number there's no point in even calling for help.
By this time, Glen is shook up. He is angry and frustrated, and trying to conceal both emotions from his small but observant daughter watching him from the backseat. Sara asks her father why the man was so angry, and Glen knows it's not going to be fun telling Liz about their afternoon. Then, a teenaged stranger in a Jaguar convertible nearly kills Glen and Sara. He is in an oncoming lane, speeding aggressively. Just as Glen prepares to turn into his neighborhood, the Jaguar swerves across three lanes of cars to turn in front of Glen's car, cutting Glen off and forcing him to brake so hard that he is pulled out of his seat while Sara cries out. Just one minute later, the teenager comes close once again to killing Glen and Sara. However, this time, Glen makes a split-second decision that will change everything in his life forever.
LONG DRIVE HOME could keep a reader up at night --- even after that breathless compulsion to Read The Whole Thing Tonight No Matter What leads us to the final page. The tale is both a tragedy and a powerful meditation on conscience. It is also a horror story, a bone-chilling read, put forth in the most understated, no-frills fashion. It is terrifyingly personal to contemplate the reminder that we are all vulnerable to having our lives turn on a dime. I defy anyone to read this novel and not feel a terrible, soul-stirring empathy. It seems that a good book transports and entertains us, while a truly excellent read has the power to change us in some profound way. This story certainly qualifies as excellent.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on February 16, 2012
Long Drive Home
- Publication Date: February 7, 2012
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Free Press
- ISBN-10: 141654304X
- ISBN-13: 9781416543046