Driven
For fans of Wild, a searing memoir about one woman’s road to hope following the death of her troubled brother, told through the series of cars that accompanied herGrowing up in a blue-collar family in the Midwest, Melissa Stephenson longed for escape. Her wanderlust was an innate reaction to the powerful personalities around her, and came too from her desire to find a place in the world where her artistic ambitions wouldn’t be thwarted. She found in automobiles the promise of a future beyond Indiana state lines.From a lineage of secondhand family cars of the late ’60s, to the Honda that carried her from Montana to Texas as her new marriage disintegrated, to the ’70s Ford she drove away from her brother’s house after he took his life (leaving Melissa the truck, a dog, and a few mixed tapes), to the VW van she now uses to take her kids camping, she knows these cars better than she knows some of the people closest to her. Driven away from grief, and toward hope, Melissa reckons with what it means to lose a beloved sibling.Driven is a powerful story of healing, for all who have had to look back at pain to see how they can now move forward.

Driven Details

TitleDriven
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 24th, 2018
PublisherHoughton Mifflin Harcourt
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Biography

Driven Review

  • Karen Nelson
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of those books that has a theme that sneaks up on you. I was unsure of where this would take me, but I did enjoy the journey. Written with a contemporary bent, this book examines grief and what it is like to have a sibling being taken so young. Growing up in a blue-collar Midwest family, the author uses her words to paint the picture of that life. Melissa Stephenson wanted to escape the stillness of her world and see beyond Indiana, and what she was missing. She found cars to be the This is one of those books that has a theme that sneaks up on you. I was unsure of where this would take me, but I did enjoy the journey. Written with a contemporary bent, this book examines grief and what it is like to have a sibling being taken so young. Growing up in a blue-collar Midwest family, the author uses her words to paint the picture of that life. Melissa Stephenson wanted to escape the stillness of her world and see beyond Indiana, and what she was missing. She found cars to be the promise of a future beyond state lines. Amid broken marriage, broken promises and death, the author takes you on a journey driving into another perspective. This book tells the tale of old cars, inheriting old cars, and having cars take you to new worlds that freshen the outlook on life. Driven is a powerful story of healing from the death of a sibling, and what it is like to move forward in the world. Thank you to #NetGalley and the publisher for a pre-publication ebook in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Heather Hess
    January 1, 1970
    I didn't feel like i read a memoir; I felt more like I was just having coffee and a chat with someone who was telling me their life story. It was written like a conversation with the reader and I really enjoyed that.I think this book is very relevant right now because of the way the author talks about her brother and how he affected their lives. Suicide is a big topic right now and this story has some powerful insights to it and how to deal with the aftermath. Depression is a very serious illnes I didn't feel like i read a memoir; I felt more like I was just having coffee and a chat with someone who was telling me their life story. It was written like a conversation with the reader and I really enjoyed that.I think this book is very relevant right now because of the way the author talks about her brother and how he affected their lives. Suicide is a big topic right now and this story has some powerful insights to it and how to deal with the aftermath. Depression is a very serious illness; check up on your loved ones, even the ones that seem to be happy. My heart breaks for the author and her family, but she used her heartbreak to become stronger.
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  • Shannon Perri
    January 1, 1970
    I absolutely loved this memoir. The language was shimmery, yet lean and precise. The voice was strong, and above all, there was hope--a momentum toward vitality -- in a book that deals graciously with hard topics such as grief, suicide, and alcoholism. I can't wait to read what's next from her.
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  • Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    (I received a free advance reader copy of Driven via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This is an abbreviation of my complete review which can be found on my blog.)When we think of heartbreak, most of us think of losing a romantic love. Yet the pain of losing a loved one to death is every bit as devastating – if not moreso—than the heartbreak of a lost romantic love. Both losses can launch us into a deep spiraling grief that consumes us, body, mind and soul. Melissa Stephenson vividly br (I received a free advance reader copy of Driven via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This is an abbreviation of my complete review which can be found on my blog.)When we think of heartbreak, most of us think of losing a romantic love. Yet the pain of losing a loved one to death is every bit as devastating – if not moreso—than the heartbreak of a lost romantic love. Both losses can launch us into a deep spiraling grief that consumes us, body, mind and soul. Melissa Stephenson vividly brings that raw emotional pain to her writing. The death of her brother Matthew is one of the primary storylines running through Driven: A White-Knuckled Ride to Heartbreak and Back. She describes the horrid experience all of us go through in the early days of a loss, waking from a sleep to remember that a loved one has died and our world is no longer what it was: “It’s a vicious cycle: the forgetting, the waking, and the fresh wave of grief and nausea that crash over me as I remember.” As her deep grief continues Stephenson describes the ensuing depression: “My life feels like roadkill, a mess beyond fixing, only my brain won’t stop thinking any more than I could talk my heart out of beating. I live because my body does, a black hole incarnate.”After the immediate task of dealing with her brother's limited estate, Stephenson continues on her journey of grief. At this point, her book begins to be filled with asides which are short paragraphs, always beginning with the phrase “consider this.” In these, we see Stephenson’s internal negotiations with the universe. She creates alternate stories as she wishfully tries to change what happened. All of us have episodes of the “the what-ifs” when something goes wrong. We play out hypothetical situations, wondering if there's anything different that could have changed this outcome we don't want to be true. As most of us know, the five stages of grief aren’t linear, and through these questioning "consider this" asides, Stephenson shares her process of coming to terms with the reality of her brother’s death as well as many other difficult situations in her life.As a unique way of framing the events of Driven, Stephenson discusses the cars in her life as she grows up and launches into adulthood. Her use of the automotive details throughout her life works incredibly well as she ties together the ways her cars take her through the journey of life. Her memories of cars start in her childhood where Stephenson had the unconditional love of a devoted mother who was nonetheless addicted to nicotine and eventually alcohol. Her father was a frequently absent workaholic. Her beloved brother Matthew often pushed her away as she desperately sought his attention and love when they were children. Stephenson sometimes blamed herself for this as a child because her family taught her “I had big feelings, and they drove away those I loved.” Yet the reality was that Stephenson’s personal strength was more than those around her knew how to accommodate as they faced their own demons and desires.Overall, Driven is a powerful memoir that probes themes of growing up in the Midwest, dysfunctional family dynamics, substance addiction, love, marriage, death, relationships, personal growth, and as the title implies, road trips and cars. From the moment I picked it up, I was addicted because of Stephenson’s fluid and descriptive writing. When I finished, I felt empty and lost because there were no more pages to turn. I wanted more. Hopefully Stephenson’s next work will be published sooner rather than later.©2018 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., GreenHeartGuidance.com
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  • SundayAtDusk
    January 1, 1970
    Early on in this memoir, Melissa Stephenson describes how her state trooper grandfather was "reduced to a stain on the highway", when a car hit him while he was helping a stranded elderly woman. Personally, I thought that was a very distasteful way of putting it, and there is unfortunately much distastefulness in this story. (As well as painfully obvious proof the author has a MFA in fiction.) Actually, there's downright vulgarity where Ms. Stephenson's brother is concerned. And the more vulgar Early on in this memoir, Melissa Stephenson describes how her state trooper grandfather was "reduced to a stain on the highway", when a car hit him while he was helping a stranded elderly woman. Personally, I thought that was a very distasteful way of putting it, and there is unfortunately much distastefulness in this story. (As well as painfully obvious proof the author has a MFA in fiction.) Actually, there's downright vulgarity where Ms. Stephenson's brother is concerned. And the more vulgar his stories and actions were, the more amused she seemed to be. Yet the reader is suppose to believe he was a much desired presence at family events, and is suppose to feel devastation when he kills himself. Well, individuals with no limits often have no limits, particularly when they are drunk and depressed. Of course, some are now screaming how judgmental, the poor guy shot himself in the head. But it's often a continuous lack of judgment that helps individuals sink so low. This is not to suggest that Ms. Stephenson was in any way responsible for her brother's death; because she was not; he was the one fully responsible for it. It's just to say it is hard to get fully into this suicide story, to feel her overwhelming sadness about his death; particularly when she was not really close to him as a child, and appeared to rarely see him as an adult. Melissa Stephenson was highly motivated and ambitious as a child, and drove away from Indiana as soon and as fast as she could. Her older brother seemed to sorely lack ambition and motivation, regardless of how often his parents tried to steer him in the right direction, and pay for further education and training. Why was that? The author never really tries to explain or explore that matter. Part of the story seems to be missing. But maybe all the car talk will leave most readers feeling fulfilled.P.S. It's interesting to note the dreams the author had about her brother after his death. She reacts to him in those "visitation" dreams in the exact opposite way most individuals react to beloved deceased relatives they encounter in their dreams.(Note: I received a free ARC of this book from Amazon Vine.)
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  • Zachary Houle
    January 1, 1970
    I’ve only owned one driveable car in my life: possibly a Tonka. It was a little race car I nicknamed the “88 car” because it had a gigantic 88 stickered on the side. It was my training wheels to a real bicycle, as it was something you could pedal, and I suppose it was a sort of consolation prize for me from my parents as I really wanted a Big Wheel after seeing kids driving those around in Toronto apartment building complex parking lot when I grew up in that city until I was three years old. Whe I’ve only owned one driveable car in my life: possibly a Tonka. It was a little race car I nicknamed the “88 car” because it had a gigantic 88 stickered on the side. It was my training wheels to a real bicycle, as it was something you could pedal, and I suppose it was a sort of consolation prize for me from my parents as I really wanted a Big Wheel after seeing kids driving those around in Toronto apartment building complex parking lot when I grew up in that city until I was three years old. When we moved to the quiet Wilno, Ontario, in a rented red and white vinyl siding house, I got the car. I guess you could say it offered freedom for me, as much as I wanted something else instead, raring it down the porch and treating the steps leading to the street as an off ramp to the four-way highway-like freedom of the cul-de-sac where we lived. (Our house was at the very end of the street, not in the middle like in some Madness song.) One day, I became too big for the car — I could no longer fit — so it got handed down to my sister. The end.Sure, I got to borrow my parent’s real car — an ’86 Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra — when I got to being of age to drive, but it wasn’t really the same thing as having a car of your own, toy or not. As Melissa Stephenson’s biography of her brother that also works as a personal memoir Driven asserts, we are defined by the types of cars we drive and they serve as handy metaphors for the lives that we live. In Stephenson’s hands, it is a sad tale. Her brother, Matthew, commits suicide at the age of 29 in Georgia — something we more or less know from the outset of the book, so that’s no spoiler — and was the proud owner of an original Ford F-150, a truck possibly bigger than the lives that would ultimately be attached to it. However, it was a vehicle that needed care, and, as this biography-memoir points out, it probably got more care than its owners did.Read the rest here: https://medium.com/@zachary_houle/a-r...
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  • Janilyn Kocher
    January 1, 1970
    Driven is a memoir centered around Stephenson's family's cars and her love of travel. Stephens has wanderlust in her blood and once she escapes from the flat lands of Indiana she goes coast to coast and everywhere in between. The story is also about her relationship with her older brother, all their problems, and his death. Driven is a smooth narrative, down an open road that full of speed bumps. It's also a sad story about a life so full of potential and then meaninglessly squandered without pu Driven is a memoir centered around Stephenson's family's cars and her love of travel. Stephens has wanderlust in her blood and once she escapes from the flat lands of Indiana she goes coast to coast and everywhere in between. The story is also about her relationship with her older brother, all their problems, and his death. Driven is a smooth narrative, down an open road that full of speed bumps. It's also a sad story about a life so full of potential and then meaninglessly squandered without purpose or direction and Stephensons reckoning with the aftermath. Thanks to Edelweiss for the advance copy.
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  • Ann
    January 1, 1970
    I just received this book, and read it in 1 day. I really liked it. I loved how Melissa added so many of her memories from the 70s which brought back memories for me, as we are from the same era. I enjoyed reading about her many cars that the family went through, as we also had many cars too. The only things that I did not like were the details of her brothers death scattered through the book, and the chapter dedicated to the funeral and preparations. I just skipped over these parts and enjoyed I just received this book, and read it in 1 day. I really liked it. I loved how Melissa added so many of her memories from the 70s which brought back memories for me, as we are from the same era. I enjoyed reading about her many cars that the family went through, as we also had many cars too. The only things that I did not like were the details of her brothers death scattered through the book, and the chapter dedicated to the funeral and preparations. I just skipped over these parts and enjoyed the rest of the book. I received this ARC through Goodreads and I appreciate the opportunity to read and review it. Thanks
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  • Katrina
    January 1, 1970
    I tried to go slow and savor, but that was impossibleI keep trying to find a clever way to talk about reading Driven. All I have is the corny idea that I was driven to read it until there were no more words left to read. As with so many of my favorite books, I will now turn back to the first page and read it again.
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  • Ronnie
    January 1, 1970
    I feel for her and what she has gone through and appreciate her sharing her story but my rating is for the writing, which I did not enjoy and rolled my eyes or cringed at many times. There's also a few typos in the book, though I noticed that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt gave is 5 stars on here.
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  • Amy Morgan
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you Edelweiss for my review copy of this book. Melissa Stephens has always found it hard to be settled in one place. She also had a fascination with cars and tells the story of her family through the variety of automobiles that have come and gone through various and important parts of her life. After her brother commits suicide he leaves Melissa his dog and his truck. As Melissa drives his truck back to Texas she begins recounting her memories of her life with her family and her brother in Thank you Edelweiss for my review copy of this book. Melissa Stephens has always found it hard to be settled in one place. She also had a fascination with cars and tells the story of her family through the variety of automobiles that have come and gone through various and important parts of her life. After her brother commits suicide he leaves Melissa his dog and his truck. As Melissa drives his truck back to Texas she begins recounting her memories of her life with her family and her brother in concordance with present and previous vehicles.I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with this book but I actually really enjoyed it. The stories of the relationships within the family especially the longing for a relationship with her brother was very emotional. I found the connection of the vehicles to the different parts of her life way more interesting than I thought I would and they do not take over the story the way i thought it might. This verbal very well written and interesting story.
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  • Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free advance reader copy of Driven via Netgalley in return for an honest review.When we think of heartbreak, most of us think of losing a romantic love. Yet the pain of losing a loved one to death is every bit as devastating – if not moreso—than the heartbreak of a lost romantic love. Both losses can launch us into a deep spiraling grief that consumes us, body, mind and soul. Melissa Stephenson vividly brings that raw emotional pain to her writing. The death of her brother Matthew i I received a free advance reader copy of Driven via Netgalley in return for an honest review.When we think of heartbreak, most of us think of losing a romantic love. Yet the pain of losing a loved one to death is every bit as devastating – if not moreso—than the heartbreak of a lost romantic love. Both losses can launch us into a deep spiraling grief that consumes us, body, mind and soul. Melissa Stephenson vividly brings that raw emotional pain to her writing. The death of her brother Matthew is one of the primary storylines running through Driven: A White-Knuckled Ride to Heartbreak and Back. She describes the horrid experience all of us go through in the early days of a loss, waking from a sleep to remember that a loved one has died and our world is no longer what it was: “It’s a vicious cycle: the forgetting, the waking, and the fresh wave of grief and nausea that crash over me as I remember.” As her deep grief continues Stephenson describes the ensuing depression: “My life feels like roadkill, a mess beyond fixing, only my brain won’t stop thinking any more than I could talk my heart out of beating. I live because my body does, a black hole incarnate.”These emotions are the brutal reality of what we experience when someone we love dies. Stephenson also isn’t afraid of exploring the thoughts that most of us don’t want to admit we have around death. She talks explicitly about wondering what Matthew’s life-ending wound looked like, a deeply personal thought that most would hide in fear that they would be judged “too morbid” or even worse. Yet all of us have these questions and thoughts about death even if we won’t admit that we’ve thought about them. As Stephenson reflects on her brother’s cremation, her vivid imagery shows clearly how the details surrounding his death invaded her mind:I think about how just yesterday, mere miles from here, strangers loaded my brother’s body into an incinerator, stripped down to tattoos. Flames enveloped him, burning away flesh, the face, the organs—reducing him irrevocably to a twenty-pound pile of ash. I think about how my father took that urn in his arms and looked up at us this morning, astonished. He’s the weight of a baby again, he said.These are the excruciating details we all face when a loved one dies, but few of us are willing to explore them with this kind of total honesty.After the immediate task of dealing with her brother's limited estate, Stephenson continues on her journey of grief. At this point, her book begins to be filled with asides which are short paragraphs, always beginning with the phrase “consider this.” In these, we see Stephenson’s internal negotiations with the universe. She creates alternate stories as she wishfully tries to change what happened. All of us have episodes of the “the what-ifs” when something goes wrong. We play out hypothetical situations, wondering if there's anything different that could have changed this outcome we don't want to be true. As most of us know, the five stages of grief aren’t linear, and through these questioning "consider this" asides, Stephenson shares her process of coming to terms with the reality of her brother’s death as well as many other difficult situations in her life.As a unique way of framing the events of Driven, Stephenson discusses the cars in her life as she grows up and launches into adulthood. Her use of the automotive details throughout her life works incredibly well as she ties together the ways her cars take her through the journey of life. Her memories of cars start in her childhood where Stephenson had the unconditional love of a devoted mother who was nonetheless addicted to nicotine and eventually alcohol. Her father was a frequently absent workaholic. Her beloved brother Matthew often pushed her away as she desperately sought his attention and love when they were children. Stephenson sometimes blamed herself for this as a child because her family taught her “I had big feelings, and they drove away those I loved.” Yet the reality was that Stephenson’s personal strength was more than those around her knew how to accommodate as they faced their own demons and desires.It’s also from her family that Stephenson gains her connection to the metaphysical. Her father has precognitive dreams about broken bones that Stephenson and her brother experience as children. Stephenson herself has a precognitive dream about her brother’s death. After her brother’s death, Matthew’s spirit comes to Stephenson in her dreams. As renowned medium James Van Praagh has tweeted, “One of the easiest ways to hear from a loved one is thru our dreams because our minds are not conscious and the subconscious is in control.” Stephenson describes these “postmortem dreams” as “visitations. Communication lines that stretch beyond the edges of the known universe. My brother, or what’s left of him, finds me here.” Eventually, these dream visitations come to an end: “Matthew simply disappears from the edges of my world, having moved on, at last, to whatever comes next.” So, too, does Stephenson’s own life move on to her next adventures, including her most recent vehicle in her current home in Montana.Overall, Driven is a powerful memoir that probes themes of growing up in the Midwest, dysfunctional family dynamics, substance addiction, love, marriage, death, relationships, personal growth, and as the title implies, road trips and cars. From the moment I picked it up, I was addicted because of Stephenson’s fluid and descriptive writing. When I finished, I felt empty and lost because there were no more pages to turn. I wanted more. Hopefully Stephenson’s next work will be published sooner rather than later.©2018 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., GreenHeartGuidance.com
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