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Velva Jean Learns to Drive: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, July 28, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
This is the story of Velva Jean Hart growing up in the Appalachians in the 30's & 40's. From a young girl who loses her mother and becomes quite a wild child to a very young preacher's wife, Velva Jean's story is filled with interesting characters. The character descriptions were so good that I felt like I knew each and every one of them -- heart and soul as well as physical appearance. Her grandparents, her brothers, the traveling preachers, the wood carver, the boys who worked on the highway all bring something interesting to the story.
My favorite character aside from Velva Jean is the Wood Cutter who most people are afraid of and believe to be a murderer. He lives alone up on the mountain and he and Velva Jean become the most unlikely of friends; his wisdom and friendship become very important to her. When she seeks counsel from him, he tells Velva Jean ,"The strongest trees are the ones that bend with the storms." Reading the final chapters of the book, I had to remind myself that although she is married, she is still just a teenager facing a lot of difficult decisions.
I highly recommend this book. It is the best novel I have read this year.
Where oh where did I get that odd desire not to read this?
While being somewhat on the cutesy side, this is a fantastic first novel that shows more raw talent than a lot of writers out there. Ms. Niven has a gift with words and even though I am a Western girl she managed to make me find a connection with this Appalachian town. The writing is clear, words well-chosen and never flowery, and the story is full of heart and meaning and interest. It is simply a good, down-home story that does not try to be pathetically original or controversial. It's just the story of a girl who wants to be a singer. So, even though that might rub some as the aforementioned cutesy, I for one certainly enjoyed it.
This is the tale of Velva Jean Heart who grows up in a small Appalachian community in the 1930s. Despite various family troubles, she clings to the dream of singing in the Grand Ol' Opery. She has the company of her grandfather, her brother, and a mysterious old murderer. Later, she marries a traveling preacher. They are all wonderful characters, for this is more of a character-driven story than a plot-driven one. And yet there are other characters, such as the Scenic Highway being built through their land that gets different opinions from folk, and the yellow truck her brother-in-law buys.
Niven seamlessly weaves all of this together into a touching, sweet story that explores the subtle changes in people. It's not absolutely perfect, but it certainly is wonderful and Niven should be proud.
I won't summarize this book as it's already been done here many times, but I absolutely recommend it for those interested. If you're a fan of Southern Fiction, or coming-of-age stories, then you will love this book. There's a little bit of everything here...love, loss, sex, violence, and the finding of one's self, but it's all done very tastefully. There's nothing vulgar or offending about this story. It's just a heartwarming journey with a young child of the mountains.
This book was a little hard to get into at first and yet strangely I could not put it down. We first meet Velva Jean when she is 10 years old and watch as she grows older, marries and has to make a decision about pursuing her dream of singing in the Grand Ole Opry. I had to really get myself into the right frame of mind for this book. It takes place in the early 1930s and continues into the early 40s. So there were a lot of things that I was shaking my head over. I couldn't believe that it was unseemly for women to drive cars. I had never actually heard that before and would have smacked my husband if he tried to tell me I couldn't drive a car. But things like this were a part of every day life for Velva Jean. This just makes her dream of singing in the Grand Ole Opry that much more difficult to achieve. This was a time where women were supposed to marry, have children and take care of the family and house hold and be happy with it. The story did pull me in and I loved the cast of characters you meet like her brother, Johnny Clay, the wood carver who is supposed to be some sort of crazy half-animal murderer and Sweet Fern, her sister who has to put her own life on hold in order to take care of her brothers and sister after their mother dies and their father leaves home. Velva Jean's character often struck me as immature but then I would have to remind myself that she is not even 18 years old yet through most of the book so then I would find myself feeling sorry for her. The ending wraps up quite nicely with her learning the true reason her father left home and we finally learn the decision she makes whether to pursue her dream or pursue the love she has for Harley.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great characters; richly developed! An easy read......but I wanted more.....more about Velva Jean's singing career. It was such an important part of the book but not finished. Read morePublished 1 month ago by CJ
One of my all time favorite books. It's hard to write a book that develops characters that the reader starts caring about but this book does just that. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Susan H
The main character develops from a child into an independent woman. The setting is the Depression in Appalachia. Very believable set of characters. Very descriptive. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
All I can say is if you only read one book for the rest of your life, this should be the one.Published 12 months ago by Elaine Percival
Could not put it down. Looking forward to the next one. Great characters. Took me back to my childhood in the Catskills.Published 13 months ago by Sally Quick
I loved the first third or so of the book as the spunky "Velva Jean" was growing up as a most unconventional and adventurous young girl. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Daniel E. Conrad