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The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances: A Memoir Hardcover – July 7, 2009

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From Publishers Weekly

Millhone, an NYU professor and columnist for Men's Health, writes about family crises, stress, anxieties and what he calls our year from hell when his son nearly died shortly after birth, his father was diagnosed with cancer, his mother died, his dog bit his oldest son in the face and his marriage was crumbling. Millhone felt he had a subscription to a tragedy-of-the-month club, so his solution was to buy a car and travel with his dad. On the road, there are flashbacks to old songs, childhood toys, his marriage and his mother: Mom had a black belt in backhanded compliments. As for the trip itself, chapter headings are misleading: the Vicksburg visit takes place inside an Applebee's and Katrinaville offers only a two-paragraph glimpse of New Orleans from the freeway. Millhone occasionally delivers a funny line amid many strained and strange attempts at humor, such as calling the scattering of his mother's ashes The Sprinkling. More often, in a curious contradiction, the tragedy cancels out the comedy, and vice versa, while the road trip reads like a postcard scribble. (Aug.)
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About the Author

MARK MILLHONE is an award-winning filmmaker, Men’s Health columnist, and screenwriting professor at NYU Film School. He won an Academy Award in 1997 (Best Student Film, for Christmas in New York). His first major motion picture, Serenity Falls, starring Omar Epps, is set to start filming soon. He lives in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books (July 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594868239
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594868238
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,876,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Mark Millhone is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, columnist and teacher.

After graduating from Columbia University with an MFA in Film Direction and winning the Academy Award for Best Student Film, Mark spent more than five years wandering the vast desert of Hollywood development hell before resurfacing as a screenwriting professor at NYU Film School and the Dysfunctional-Male-in-Residence at Men's Health Magazine. His humorous columns for that magazine (and his need to deal with a very un-humorous year from hell for his family) are what begat his memoir, The Patron Saint of Used Cars & Second Chances (coming out in hardcover on July 7th). But, of course, like every other moron who went to film school, what Mark really wants to do is direct and has several projects in development: The Other Jennifer (a romantic-comedy based on one of his magazine columns) and Serenity Falls (his Sisyphusian attempt to re-make Chinatown set in present-day Dallas, Texas). Cameras roll on his feature film directorial debut Minuteman, this summer.

Mark lives in Virginia with his family and has two lovely children and two rather strange-looking dogs.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Karen K. Hart VINE VOICE on June 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As I read The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances, I genuinely felt for Mark Millhone. In this book he talks to us, unguardedly, about his failing marriage, his very real desire to save it and have the old magic back, and the history leading up to Mark and his wife being such very different people from the ones they were when they got married. Millhone tells us about having to have one of the family's two dogs put to sleep to protect the children, then having it be the OTHER dog who ends up biting one of the kids; how hard it is to let the dogs--members of the family--go; how one of his sons almost died right after birth; how his [Mark's] mother's death hit him and how much he loved her despite her unstable mental state and her abuse; and so on. Through all this pain Mark manages to be emotional without being overdramatic or sappy--he seems to REALLY MEAN what he's saying about his sadness, which makes me feel about the same way I'd feel when looking at a little puppy who'd just been kicked but didn't really know why. When Millhone said he missed the sensation of missing his wife, it was really striking to me; little statements and metaphors throughout the book pack a punch.
It's nice to see a book about someone wanting to work to overcome troubles rather than simply wallowing in them. Rather than being depressing, the book carries a message of hope--and when I read about the pain Mark's family was going through, I felt all the more grateful for mine.
This is a quick read that, somehow, manages to avoid being depressing despite the subject matter.
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In The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances, Mark Millhone details his excruciating domestic tumult--son gets bit by family dog, younger son develops serious case of pneumonia, wife is stressed out and taking out her emotions on husband. He escapes his Marriage Inferno by getting addicted to EBay Motors where he spends hour upon hour after work scouring the website in his quest to find the Ultimate Transcendence Car, one that will take him away from all his woes. When he wins a bid on a cherry BMW 7 series and must fly to Dallas and drive back with his father, he uses the road trip to reconnect with his stoical, wise 1950s era father who keeps his son, prone to manic euphoria, tethered to reality.

While I like the premise and can identify with Millhone's consumer obsession--especially one for cars--I find the book has three major flaws. Stylistically, the book shows off Mullhone's writing skills. But Mullhone's fondness for humorous hyperbole is excessive and tiring and betrays a sentimentality that doesn't bode well for this chimera quest. My second problem is that I never believe in the urgency of Millhone's car quest. The book's sentimental tone sugar-coats any desperate demons that might propel someone to compulsively buy a 1994 BMW 7 series on an Internet auction (though I do believe the quest was really a plan to be with his father. That part he does well). Finally, at 192 pages, the book feels padded. An autobiographical essay would have had a more effective, distilled quality, but over a book-length landscape I can see Mullhone, the professional deft writer, using his skill to pad his essay into a book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ellie Z VINE VOICE on August 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's hard to write a negative review of a memoir, which is usually another person's most intimate pain and emotional rawness exposed on paper. After all, if one has enough courage to expose their innermost fears, pettiness, and their shortcomings, who am I to criticize? And yet... as I read this book, rather than finding the narrator endearing, I think he comes off as a jerk most of the time and his wife as a whining shrew.

Perhaps my dislike of this memoir is due in part to bad timing - this book was released at a time when everyone I know is facing serious financial distress, whether through lost jobs or lost retirement savings, or lost homes, lost health, or a combination of these. Honestly, a story about a man with a part time job as a magazine writer and yet who has enough money to blow on an impromptu car purchase in response to having been through a very challenging 12 months with his family, (not to mention the cash to finance a road trip from New York to Texas to pick up said car and the selfishness to leave his wife at home alone with the kids while trying to hold down her fulltime job) left me feeling no sympathy for this guy.

Overall, I think that this piece would have been better as a series of op-ed articles in a magazine than a full-blown book. With the right kind of editing, I think Mr. Millhone could have come off as witty, even likeable. There were moments of real humor in this memoir. The paragraphs devoted to describing his Midwestern father's generic "I'm fine" response to all things emotional will resonate with lots of people and were genuinely funny. Unfortunately, these moments were too few and far between.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Amara TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really enjoyed my time reading this memoir. The author, Mark Millhone, writes with a light touch and a humorous tone. He doesn't take himself too seriously, and his writing is easy to read. However, somehow this book never seemed to add up, for me anyway, to a complete story.

If you are looking for a book about the love of used cars, this is not the book, and I was glad it wasn't. The car that figures large on the cover is really a very small part of the book, more sort of an excuse to fit the memoir into a frame. The author and his father drive back to NY after picking up a new used car in Texas. Millhone has been through an awful year. His younger son spent a long time in the NICU after being born, and nearly didn't make it, his older son was badly bitten in the face by the family dog, and his mother died. Now his wife is in the midst of what seems like a nervous breakdown, and he is not sure how to handle anything. During the trip, flashbacks let us see each of these events, and how his own childhood was quite dysfunctional. Every call to his wife is worse; their marriage seems headed for divorce.

The ending of the book seems rushed, and I don't get a feeling at all that things were really tied up to my satisfaction. What happened in the end to Boomer the dog? What was the therapy like? How did Benny finally start talking? Many more questions like this hover around my mind.

I don't mean to say this book is not worth a read, however. I enjoyed most all of my time reading it, and I bet many people would. I just wish it were a little more focused and structured.

One note---there is a lot about dogs here that might upset some animal lovers. I wasn't overly bothered, but if you are quite sensitive, you might want to avoid this book. I didn't feel anything that went on wasn't justified, but not everyone would feel the same way.
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