08 September 2011


EBOOK: 9781612190068

It's hard being a single dad—especially when your son is a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle. 

There’s nothing more troubling than having your child break down on the side of the road, leaking oil, overheating, and asking tough questions like, “What is death?” and “Why did Mom leave?”
But stay calm!
Because How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive is not only a dizzyingly beautiful novel, it’s also a handy manual with useful chapters on “Tools and Spare Parts,” “Valve Adjustment,” “How To Read This Novel,” and, most important of all, “How Works a Heart.”
Welcome to Christopher Boucher’s zany literary universe, a place where metaphors shift beneath your feet, familiar words assume new meanings, objects talk, trees attack, and time actually is money. Modeled on the cult classic 1969 hippie handbook of the same name, How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive is an astonishing tour-de-force that tackles some of life’s biggest questions: How do you cope with losing a parent? What’s the secret to raising a child? How do you keep love alive? How do you get your car to start?

This is a tale about a man, his father and the man's son.  That is almost all I can say.  Boucher is a wordsmith extraordinaire.  He uses symbolism and metaphor like most people use their cell phones.  I'm equally torn between absolutely loving this book and being totally frustrated by it.  While I find creative use of language fascinating and engaging, in this instance it made me feel like I didn't totally "get" everything that was happening. I played along for most of the book because it is a very well written novel with an unusual take on storytelling and I love when authors push the limits of their craft.  I particularly love when authors take the craft of writing into the realm of creative art. However, I felt abandoned as a reader by Boucher as he seemed more concerned with obscuring reality than letting the reader actually understand what was going on.  Instead of breathing life into the emotional aspects of the story the author chose to hide that emotion amidst symbology, representation and shifting words in odd ways. Boucher nearly had me singing his praises ardently, he nearly had me swooning with adoration.  As it stands now Boucher will be an author to keep a keen eye on. 
"Yes, I think it was, because it was the same day that I bought the corpse of an old accordian who'd gotten in a bar fight and been stabbed and killed. I bought it from a moustached truck who was selling it for two and a half hours."

CHRISTOPHER BOUCHER received his MFA in Fiction from Syracuse University, where he studied with George Saunders and Junot Díaz. Before moving to Syracuse, he worked as the Arts and Entertainment Writer for The Daily Hampshire Gazette, and drove (when it started) a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle. He currently teaches writing and literature at Boston College, and is the managing editor of Post Road Magazine. In his free time, he plays banjo in a bluegrass band.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.


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