Tag Archives: children

Review: The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances by Mark Millhone

patronsaintTitle: The Patron Saint of Used Cars and Second Chances

Author: Mark Millhone

Genre/Pages: Nonfiction, Memoir (Humor, Relationships)/192

Publication: Rodale Books; July 7, 2009

Rating: 3.5 BOOKMARKS

 

Nat’s ‘In a Nutshell’:  One man’s nine month journey to hell and back with a layover in Dallas where he picks up a honey of a used car hoping it will have the power to ferry him back (literally and metaphorically) to his wife, children, and the way things used to be.

To say that things aren’t going well for Mark Millhone and his family would be an understatement.  In the span of time equivalent to a baby’s gestation, Millhone fields tragedy after trauma, from his mother’s death, father’s diagnosis with cancer, infant son’s near-death after birth, and older son’s run-in with the family dog’s fangs. 

As his world and marriage crumble around him, Millhone takes to his computer, stalking eBay Motors for a car.  His salvation comes in the form of a 1994 BMW 7 series–the panacea to all that ails him.  The symbolism is clear–the car is much more than just four wheels and seat–it’s redemption with leather upholstery.  Under the pretext of asking for help, Millhone orchestrates some father-son bonding by enlisting his father to ride shotgun on the drive home from the Lone Star State (where the Beemer is)  to the Big Apple (where Millhone lives).

In the interim, Mark packs up his wife and sons and trundles them off to his in-laws’ house in upstate New York.  He mentions that in better times, he and his wife owned and renovated a farmhouse in Margaretville.  My great-grandfather owns a piece of prime real estate in the Margaretville Cemetery and has been in residence there since 1954.  Before that, he owned a dairy farm in Halcottsville, where my dad summered as a boy.  (It was a kick to read about these towns–especially since I spent part of my summer vacation there last month!)

Millhone and his father make the epic drive, and as readers we ride along, getting filled in on the back story.  He doesn’t shy away from the telling–even when it would be less painful or easier to edit events or conversations.  He confronts his failures and examines his self-doubt.  He openly discusses the difficult relationship he had with his mother and the challenge that parenthood really is. 

It was refreshing to read such an honest account of how parenting and marriage can, despite best efforts and intentions, go bad.  No one sets out to be a bad spouse or parent, but both roles are jobs that require Herculean dedication and responsibility.  Millhone’s memoir examines marriage, family relationships, and being a father with humor and authenticity that comes from experience and perseverance.    

This memoir acted as springboard in my house for some interesting discussions about marriage and family.  Children dramatically impact the landscape of a marriage and the husband-wife dynamic shifts.  If you have children, did you find the adjustment to be more or less difficult than you anticipated?  Do you have any tips for dealing with this issue?

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this memoir–nonfiction is one of my favorite genres!

 

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The Reading Cult for Kids: Scholastic Books

I have vivid recollections of my six years in elementary school.  A few are traumatic–hysterics on the first day of kindergarten after being pried from my mother’s arms and deposited aboard a menacing, yellow bus; a sadistic first grade teacher who sported a towering beehive (in ’81) and took pleasure in punishing disorganized little me by dumping the contents of my desk on to my lap as I sat on the floor crying.  But there were good times amid the trauma. 

I recall the fun that was inhaling the heady scent of mimeographed paper (old-time photocopies for the youngsters!), D.E.A.R time (Drop Everything And Read), and best of all, SCHOLASTIC BOOK FLIERS and FAIRS.

scholastic

Scholastic has been peddling books to school children via mini-newspapers for almost 60 years.  I perused the flier with the fervor of a lost man studying a map. 

Whole hours were spent poring over the literary possibilities.  The epic decisions that rested on my little shoulders threatened to break me.   Should I stay safe and go with Clifford and Corduroy, or maybe try something new?

Going out on a limb, selecting an unknown author or title, was a venture fraught with peril.  A feeling of unease would set in if I let spontaneity rule; I would invariably pick the cruddiest book that Scholastic offered.  Weeks of anticipation and waiting for my package would be for naught.

I still own a few of my Scholastic purchases to this day.  The Girl With the Silver Eyes by Willow Davis Roberts  was one of my favorites and still has a place of honor in the “silver” section of my organized-by-color book cabinet. 

So, ‘fess up.  Were you a Scholastic disciple?  Did you order up books from the little newspaper?  I know this wasn’t only a Jersey thing–sure, we’ve got the market on nuclear waste and the mafia cornered…but other states had to have Scholastic too!