The Car Thief -Nancy's

Review by Nancy

This story is a “come to Jesus” moment for anyone who reads it. It tells us of Alex, the son and of Curly, the father. They are together on different planes - the same house, sleeping, eating, living together barely speaking, barely existing most of the time. Mom left with the young brother, Howard, several years ago and Curly’s world changed dramatically. His drinking before more, his life much less and his ability to care for a son alone isn’t even worth discussing.

Alex has, at 16, done something most adults haven’t done, much less kids his age: he is driving a Buick and it is the 14th car he has stolen. However, the Buick is different in that this time he is caught. Dad is working nights building cars and has no idea what Alex is up to. Curly is too depressed to notice. He knows he should do SOMETHING but doesn’t know what.

Alex goes to the 1960’s version of Juvie and there his world enlarges by leaps and bounds. It is a hard place, cleaning coal chutes, toilets with no seats and a blanket. White and black teens together doing “chores” meant to teach them behavior and respect. As soon as he can, Alex leaves and goes home to – nothing. He wants to enlist but by now is only 17 and can’t.

He goes to see his brother Howard and his errant mother but can’t stay. Home isn’t for him, at least home with a semblance of family. He is verbally cruel to Howard who only wants an older brother, someone to hang with and possibly look up to. Nothing to look up to in Alex. Alex goes back to school, gets a job as a caddy and looks forward to freedom. And he gets it – just not the way he planned.

Billed as “one of the best coming of age novels of the twentieth century”, The Car Thief was actually written in 1967. It is about juvenile delinquents, alcoholic fathers, cars, high school, crushes on girls and LIFE as most of us don’t have to live it. (Thank God!) A hard story to read but possibly an essential one


Theodore Weesner, born in Flint, Michigan, is aptly described as a “Writers’ Writer” by the larger literary community. His short works have been published in the New Yorker, Esquire, Saturday Evening Post, Atlantic Monthly and Best American Short Stories. His novels, including The True Detective, Winning the City and Harbor Light, have been published to great critical acclaim in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Harper’s, The Boston Globe, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, Boston Magazine and The Los Angeles Times to name a few.

Weesner is currently writing his memoir, two new novels, and an adaptation of his widely praised novel—retitled Winning the City Redux—also to be published by Astor + Blue Editions. He lives and works in Portsmouth, NH.


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