Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Review: The Spark and the Drive by Wayne Harrison


By an award-winning writer of short fiction, a devastatingly powerful debut novel of hero-worship, first love, and betrayal.

Justin Bailey is seventeen when he arrives at the shop of legendary muscle car mechanic Nick Campbell. Anguished and out of place among the students at his rural Connecticut high school, Justin finds in Nick, his captivating wife Mary Ann, and their world of miraculous machines the sense of family he has struggled to find at home.

But when Nick and Mary Ann’s lives are struck by tragedy, Justin’s own world is upended. Suddenly Nick, once celebrated for his mechanical genius, has lost his touch. Mary Ann, once tender and compassionate to her husband, has turned distant. As Justin tries to support his suffering mentor, he finds himself drawn toward the man’s grieving wife. Torn apart by feelings of betrayal, Justin must choose between the man he admires more than his own father and the woman he yearns for.

A poignant and fiercely original debut, with moments of fast-paced suspense, Wayne Harrison's The Spark and The Drive is the unforgettable story of a young man forced to make an impossible decision—no matter the consequences.


Published July 15th 2014 by St. Martin's Press

Available: Amazon | The Book Depository (affiliate links)


This novel is set in the 80s, after the revered time of the old muscle cars of the 60s and 70s. The story begins with Justin gaining employment with Nick Campbell. While working for him, he is struggling with many issues in his life and, as a consequence of becoming involved in his mentor's problems, unwisely pursues a relationship of sorts with Nick's grieving wife. Nick and Mary Ann have problems that are not easy for any couple to deal with, and Justin, though immature and unequipped at his young age, attempts to be the man that Nick cannot as he grieves silently in his shop.

Throughout the novel, I had a sense of how these characters and their situation would be quite interesting portrayed in movie format. It is perfect for car afficionados who will enjoy all of the detailed references to the type of repair and restoration that Justin and Nick are involved in. The novel is balanced between being very focused on the process of car restoration and between the subtle restoration that the characters themselves are undergoing in the process, though that process is extremely messy.

Despite the strange and uncomfortable love triangle and all of the violations it causes to each of the characters, they somehow learn from the experience and are stronger as a result in the midst of the mess of their own mistakes. This world is a broken, messy place, and these characters show that through their actions.

I think of this book as being something that men or car lovers would particularly enjoy because of all of the descriptions of Justin and Nick working on cars. Some of the references were lost on me, but I was able to grasp the overall storyline and enjoy it.

Young Adult Notes:

As a book in the adult age category, this book contains mature themes involving death and sexual experimentation. Explicit sexual description and language; strong language; substance use and abuse.

Source: Thanks to the author for providing a copy of this title in exchange for a fair review.

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