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Cover image for Drives like a dream
Drives like a dream
Publication Information:
Boston, MA : Houghton Mifflin, 2005.
Physical Description:
272 pages ; 22 cm
Chronicles the nervous breakdown of Lydia Modine, a sixty-one-year-old woman whose husband and family have abandoned her while she is in the midst of writing a difficult book about Detroit's automobile industry.


Call Number
Shreve, P.

On Order



The New York Times called Porter Shreve's first novel, The Obituary Writer, "an involving and sneakily touching story whose twists feel less like the conventions of a genre than the convolutions of a heart -- any heart." Newsday hailed the book as "a substantial achievement," and Tim O'Brien described it as "taut, compelling, and moving . . . beautifully written, engrossing from start to finish." Shining with the same heart and humor, Shreve's second novel, Drives Like a Dream, is a smart, wry tale about a modern-day mother in the midst of a lifestyle crisis -- and her outlandish attempts to get her family back.
Lydia Modine is sixty-one and about to come undone. Her three grown-up children have flown the coop. She hasn't seen them together in more than a year, and now her ex-husband is about to remarry a woman half his age. And the insults keep coming: Lydia is stuck on a book she's writing about Detroit's car industry, which uncannily parallels her own life -- out with the old model, in with the new. She's poured her soul into her family, only to be abandoned in the City of Dream Machines. But then a twist of fate introduces her to Norm, an eco-car fanatic out to remake her and the world. Is he the answer to all of her problems, or does he hold the one secret that just might get her children back to Detroit, home for good?
A warm, funny, and affecting novel that's sure to appeal to anyone who has longed for an alternate life, Drives Like a Dream confirms that sometimes when you set out for a spin, the twists and turns can be perfectly rewarding -- and right.

Author Notes

Porter Shreve was born during the Lyndon Johnson administration, grew up in Washington, D.C., and has attended three presidential inaugurations: Carter '77, Clinton '93, and Clinton '97. In the 1970s his family started an alternative school called Our House Is a Very, Very, Very Fine House, and some of When the White House Was Ours is loosely based on that experience. Shreve's first novel, The Obituary Writer, was a New York Times Notable Book, and his second, Drives Like a Dream, wasa Chicago Tribune Book of the Year. He lives with his wife, the writer Bich Minh Nguyen, in Chicago and West Lafayette, Indiana, where he directs the creative writing program at Purdue University.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

After his well-received, quirky 2000 debut, The Obituary Writer, Shreve succumbs to the sophomore slump with a dull and far-fetched follow-up. Cars are in Lydia Modine's blood: her father had worked for Ford, Tucker and GM, she's an expert on his former boss, Preston Tucker, and she still lives right outside a tarnished and crumbling Detroit. Now divorced after 33 years of marriage, Lydia, a "social historian of the automobile," sees too many parallels between herself and the subject of her fifth book: "`planned obsolescence.' Out with the old, in with the new." In the wake of her ex-husband Cy's wedding to a younger woman, 61-year-old Lydia is desperate to escape her sense of loss and restore a sense of family with her three grown children. Shreve's considerable historical research is obvious and admirable, but unless the reader is fascinated by the car industry, it will seem like overkill. Leads that could have been interesting remain unpursued, while an unlikely relationship between Lydia and Cy's new in-laws is developed. Also unlikely is Lydia's scheme to lure her children back home, which borders on the slapstick. Shreve shows promise with some strong character writing, but erratic storytelling, a hasty conclusion and a surfeit of auto lore stall the tale. Agent, Timothy Seldes. 9-city author tour. (Mar. 4) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

Divorced elder of a Detroit car family pulls some desperate punches on the wedding of her ex. The daughter of a famous GM designer (now dead) and the ex-wife of a car dealer, Lydia Modine, at 61, has found her livelihood as a social historian of the automobile, with four books to her name. But on the wedding day of her ex, Cy, to a woman half his age, and with her three grown children traipsing off blithely to the affair without her, Lydia feels abandoned and aims, without admitting it to herself, to get even. During research for her new book, which begins to focus on the early design team at GM and its role in "planned obsolescence," she meets aging hippie academic and green activist Norm Crawford. Although their Internet courtship leads to a disastrous lunch (he's hectoring, loud, and insulting), Lydia nonetheless fabricates around him a whole tale of romance and elopement that serves to alarm her scattered children into returning home and paying attention to her. It's a bizarre ploy hinting at Alzheimer's, and one complicated by bland Cy's request that from time to time Lydia check his new wife's eccentric elderly parents, M.J. and Casper. Having also worked in the car industry, they feed Lydia a shadowy theory of treachery about her father at GM. Second-novelist Shreve (The Obituary Writer, 2000) endows Lydia with a touching naivetÉ in the midst of frightening modern dating rituals, while her children, especially daughter Jessica, are well fleshed and real. Lydia's true love, however, is the absent father, and Shreve devotes a good deal of time to him and his historic design work. In the end, Detroit is the main character here, Lydia its defender, and her bringing her family together a way of preserving the status quo amid troubling modern changes. Clever and biting fiction that also serves as an amiable account of the Detroit car industry. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Renowned car historian Lydia Modine is not prepared for what her later years have in store. She had assumed that her family would stay together. Her three grown children would find jobs close to home in suburban Detroit while she and her husband, Cy, got reacquainted. Instead, Lydia's children have scattered to different parts of the country, and her husband of 33 years--now her ex--is getting married to a woman half his age. To escape, Lydia pours herself into a book project about her father's distinguished career as a car designer--first for Preston Tucker and later for GM--and she unearths some potentially damning information. For decades a conspiracy theory had circulated that Tucker had been sabotaged by a former employee who gave away his secrets to the big three automakers. Gradually, Lydia realized that her father might have been the saboteur. As her convictions crumble, Lydia behaves increasingly erratically. How her family contends with the seismic shifts in her personality and her eventual stabilization makes this an affecting character-driven novel. --Jerry Eberle Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

With her husband remarried, her children gone, and her book on the Detroit car industry stalled, Lydia deserves the distraction of a new suitor, eco-car-crazed Norm. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.