Longtime New Yorker Sarah is uncertain about life in the country, but it’s off to the country they go. Giving up a high-powered but ultimately soulless marketing job in the city, she and her husband ship out to rural Virginia to start fresh — and maybe start a family — away from the bright lights they’ve come to know so well.
And . . . well, that’s it, basically. Zoe Fishman’s Driving Lessons centers on sweet, bland Sarah and how she’s given up a ton for her husband and isn’t sure she wants to be a parent but, hey, she’s going to consider it, anyway. Out of practice on the road, the title comes from her attempts — some successful, some less so — to get back behind the wheel and steer herself into a new destiny. You know, that sort of thing.
What worked for me? Many of Sarah’s reservations about motherhood and her fierce friendship with Mona, an ailing bestie back in New York, felt very realistic. I appreciated Fishman’s honest take on the pressure many women face at the prospect of starting a family when they’re still trying to pull themselves together. I thought the “Whatever works for you is right for you!” message was cool, and I felt Sarah handled and reacted to changing family dynamics well.
What didn’t work so well? Um . . . everything else, I guess. As a narrator, Sarah was just as dull as dishwater. Without any discernible personality, wants or needs, I was left trying to color inside her lines myself. She was a blank slate, lacking vivacity and imagination. She was just boring. I never connected with her or really felt I got to know her at all. Worse, I didn’t feel there was anything to know. No secrets or hidden desires. Just . . . nothing.
And it frustrates me! Because this could have been fun! The push/pull of transitioning from New York to Farmwood had potential, but it just never panned out. Plus? I find the whole “New York is the center of the universe” mentality to be a bit tired. There were some overtures to incorporate cute “Southern” characters into dispatches from Virginia, and I may have enjoyed the story more had we felt more of the dynamic of city slicker in the country — but even that may have felt overdone.
And what was up with Josh, her cardboard cut-out of a husband? He’s a professor, he wants to be a dad, and . . . that about sums it up, I guess. They leave Brooklyn because he takes a job elsewhere and thinks Virginia will be a better place to raise their future gaggle of kiddos, I suppose, and that’s it. His conversations with his wife seemed stilted at best and scripted at worse — and if I never felt I got to know Sarah, well. He really needn’t have been there at all.
Was it an easy read? Yes. Did I ever consider abandoning it? No, actually. It was light women’s fiction . . . emphasis on light. So light it could have been carried off by a summer breeze, friends. I love women’s fiction and character-driven stories, but nothing about it really gripped me. Like, at all. Competently written but ultimately forgettable, Driving Lessons never really gained traction for me.
2.5 out of 5!