I have no idea why I requested Mark Millhone's memoir The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances; all I know is one day it was there, at the library, waiting for me, so of course I had to bring it home. (Books to me are like puppies or kittens. I want to adopt them ALL.) Once I got it home, I read the dust jacket to see what it was about: a man buys a used BMW online and, after picking it up, roadtrips it back to his home with his father in tow. The twist? The year the author is coming off of has not been a good one: one son spent weeks in intensive care after developing pneumonia at birth; his mother died; his other son was horribly bitten across the nose by the family dog; and his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Add a marriage situation that's teetering on the edge, and I think it's fair to say Millhone was under a bit of stress.
Enter the car: he thought, if his family could just start over with a new car, new roadtrips, new memories, etc., they'd be able to get on with their lives after their annus horribilis and find more strength in one another.
I won't reveal if the car worked; the memoir's only 192 pages long so if you're interested in finding that out it won't take you long to do so. The memoir's not perfect; after a while, the author's reliance on the details of his horrible year starts to sound a little overdone (hey, it was a really bad year. I get it. But other people have bad years too, and a lot of people across the world have really bad luck all their lives), and there's a couple of incidences in his treatment of the family dogs that made me a bit uncomfortable,* but there were also parts of this memoir that charmed me. For example, when his son sees the jagged line of stitches across his nose for the first time:
"'Why'd this have to happen?! Why?!' he cried, burying his face in my shoulder...
'You're the bravest boy,' I repeated, not knowing what else to say.
'I don't wanna be brave!' he cried.
Me neither, kid. Me neither." (p. 151.)
That's kind of honest, and I couldn't help but be touched by it just a bit. In the end, though...I think I mainly appreciated that it was short. That's a terrible reason to like a book, really, but I can't help it. I appreciate authors who recognize I've got lots of other things to read and who keep their books, accordingly, under 200 pages.
*I won't say too much, but I'll say this: dogs bite, and it's horrible when it happens, and I wouldn't want to think about what I would do to a dog that bit my child, but...kicking a dog in anger just doesn't seem like it's going to help any situation. Animal lovers, consider yourself warned.