31 May 2012

Review: The Car Thief by Theodore Weesner

* From Publicist for review *

Alex Housman is sixteen and when he's not at home with his divorced alcoholic Dad, he's at the 24 hour movie theatre or out driving a stolen car around the city following girls.

This is a coming of age story about Alex as he tries to navigate his way through school with the shame of living where he does and having a father who drinks way too much and too often.  Separated from his brother and then sent to a boy's home for stealing cars, Alex is wrenched from the only home he has ever known.

Whilst I found the story rolled along quite well, I don't believe it quite lives up to the following quote from one enthusiastic critic: "one of the great coming of age novels in the twentieth century."

What I enjoyed most from Theodore Weesner's The Car Thief was the relationship between Alex and his father.  It was complex and painful, layered and superbly written.  Alex is torn between loving his father, being proud of the way he dresses and presents himself, ashamed of his drinking, and feeling pity for the way in which his wife (Alex's mother) left him.  Their interactions are mostly sparse but seem to communicate so much, and for me these were the richest sections of the novel.

Second to that was the relationship Alex has with his younger brother.  Again this relationship is precious to Alex and deeply layered and Weesner is able to paint the tension and hurt onto the page in a scene as benign as a boat ride and a game of pool.

These two relationships were rich and moving and I enjoyed being in them more than I enjoyed reading the scenes where Alex was on his own.  Reading the author's note at the end, it seems most of this novel was autobiographical which makes this reader wonder if this was a restriction when writing The Car Thief.  

What I'll take away from reading The Car Thief is one of the best father son relationships in fiction I've read in quite a while, however this is secondary to the coming of age story of Alex Housman.

My rating = ***

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