Debbie's World of Books
My book reviews, book news & random rants

Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven

August 13th, 2009 by Debbie's World of Books


Thanks to Penguin Group for the chance to review this book.

I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Description: Set in Appalachia in the years before World War II, Velva Jean Learns to Drive is a poignant story of a spirited young girl growing up in the gold- mining and moonshining South. Before she dies, Velva Jean’s mother urges her to “live out there in the great wide world.” Velva Jean dreams of becoming a big-time singer in Nashville until she falls in love with Harley Bright, a handsome juvenile delinquent turned revival preacher. As their tumultuous love story unfolds, Velva Jean must choose between keeping her hard-won home and pursuing her dream of singing in the Grand Ole Opry.

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.

Posted in 3 Star Books, Books, General Fiction

7 Responses

  1. L. Diane Wolfe

    So like a drama heavy movie – gotta put forth a little effort.

    Glad you don’t have to smack your hubby, too!

    L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”

  2. Missy

    I have this book on my wish list, and can’t wait to read it. Thanks for sharing your review!

  3. Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)

    This sounds like an interesting story about triumph over adversity, etc. Thanks for the honest review.

  4. dsuzuki

    L. Diane-lol. Sometimes there are other reasons to make me want to smack the hubby but glad this wasn’t one.
    Missy-I hope you enjoy it!
    Serena-it was an interesting story. More so since this isn’t normally the type of book I get into.

  5. Kari

    Ah, Nashville…love my homeland! I’m interested in reading this bc I love reading about familiar locations!

  6. dsuzuki

    Kari-I feel the same way. I love when they are going somewhere and I’m like “I know that place or I’ve been there” :)

  7. Holly

    Nice review. This one sounds interesting.

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