Driving with Dead People = 17 down, 83 to go

5 Jan

Driving with Dead People
Monica Holloway
336 pages

This book is one of the many recommended to me by friend and fellow bibliomaniac, Robin. In the realm of books (and possibly life), she’s never steered me wrong.

Monica Holloway led anything but a typical childhood. In a small Ohio town, she lived with a tyrannical father and a mother seemingly absent in all things mother. Monica’s childhood and adolescence were filled with adventures that would make the basis a fun, lighthearted movie. Her best friend’s father owns a mortuary, so they spend much of their free time running around the funeral home, laying in coffins in the showroom and similar mischief. When they acquire their driver’s licenses, he throws the the keys to the hearse, and they get to cruise down to the Cincinnati airport to retrieve dead bodies.

The theme of death in her life continues as her father carries a movie camera in his car so that at a moment’s notice, he can capture grizzly accidents or an extreme tornado. When Monica is around 6 or 7, she also reads about a girl her age that lives in her town (but attends the local Catholic school) that is run over by a motorist and killed. She becomes obsessed with this girl, and she pops up on a fairly regular basis in Monica’s life.

Though not the typical childhood, you throw in a little death, and as its base, you have a very unique and differentiating childhood. However, she shares her fear, as well as her Mother’s and siblings’ fears, of her father, who is well respected in the community and owns the local hardware store, but extremely verbally abusive. Monica throws herself into school activities in high school and college, trains to become an actor and dates a long line of losers, including one that holds her at gun point when she tries to end their relationship and one that thinks she’s attempting to entrap him when she becomes pregnant.

She’s often keeping extreme depression at bay, just out of arm’s reach, and after college, she learns what the primary catalyst from where her erratic and often self-destructive behavior originates. The catalyst is that her father sexually abused her older sister, for which the memories come flooding back to her sister as an adult. This discovery comes after Monica had actually made some peace with her father starting in late high school after her mother abandoned her for a college education and a new boyfriend.

This knowledge changes everything — it puts many things from her childhood in perspective, challenges her on how to deal with/interact with each member of her family (from a brother medicating himself with alcohol and pot, to a middle sister who denies everything, to her mother who also denies everything and says she had no idea the abuse was occurring).

Through tenacity, and sometimes luck and a sense of humor that serves as a most excellent defense mechanism, Monica pulls through and eventually begins to build a normal life with an adoring husband and little boy.

In reading this book though, while you are often incensed by what has happened to her and her siblings, the storytelling is engaging and often uplifting. Towards the end of the book, she shares these poignant words that remind you that happiness is an action verb:

I’ll always be damaged in a way. I had hoped that I could completely heal those cracks, but I’m starting to think the real trick is learning to live a full life in spite of them. Cracked people are everywhere, and so I can forgive myself for being overly anxious or easily frightened. But I will no longer allow myself to be swallowed by my past. I insist on having the happiest life I can muster, and I am in control of that now.


One Response to “Driving with Dead People = 17 down, 83 to go”

  1. Robin S. January 10, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    Ok…I'm finally getting caught up on my Blogs. I'm touched…and glad you liked the book. I have started "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel. I shall be spending lots of time with it. It's massive.

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