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Learning to Drive

Best Seller
Learning to Drive by Mary Hays
Paperback $13.95
Oct 12, 2004 | ISBN 9781400031900

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  • Oct 12, 2004 | ISBN 9781400031900

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  • Aug 19, 2009 | ISBN 9780307487377

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Product Details


“I savored every moment I spent with this wise and moving and inspired novel.” –Chris Bohjalian, author of Midwives

"Mary Hays has written a brilliant, original, funny novel. What a treat! It is totally satisfying and its characters unforgettable. I loved it." –Judy Blume

“This remarkable novel compassionately looks at humans and their foibles as they strive for ‘the right way.’ . . . Hilarious . . . Hays writes with authority and authenticity.” –Vermont Life

"Mesmerizing prose and darkly complex characters draw the reader deep into Charlotte’s world, raising fascinating questions about the power of the mind over body and the emotions that bind the most unlikely people together." –Publishers Weekly

“[A] quietly affecting debut novel.” –Glamour

Author Essay

Dear Readers,

I wrote Learning to Drive because I wanted to tell the story of a family struggling with their radical beliefs—in this case, Christian Science, the religion I grew up in and rejected in my teens. (I began going to a Catholic church whose pageantry horrified my family—I was a rebellious teenager, much like my character Roberta.) Although my friends were curious about Christian Science, I wasn’t allowed to talk about it. I was told that people wouldn’t understand and that they might make fun of our beliefs.

Years later, when I came to write this novel, I still felt that prohibition. I had to overcome great resistance in myself, a scalding voice of self-censorship that I ended up personifying in the fierce character of the Porter, a mental tyrant in charge of right and wrong. Fortunately I also armed Charlotte, my novel’s main character, with the wit and imagination, and the courage, to hold her own as she ventures forth to discover a bigger world.

In the Christian Science belief, human emotions take a back seat to philosophical and scientific principles about what is and isn’t real. In my family we talked a lot about the “illusion” of our existence as human beings with imperfect bodies and hurt feelings, sorrows and joys. Yet I was as worried as anybody else about long division, scraped knees, Toni Home Permanents, pimples, and senior proms. What made me different, though, was that we didn’t go to doctors and I envied other children who did (I assumed it was great fun!). But even more than that, I envied my friends whose mothers went to the doctor because mine was always sick. Try as I might, I could not heal her heart trouble with my mind.

Serious as all this sounds, we often laughed. My father, who was not a Christian Scientist, was a great comic and he taught me to appreciate the ridiculous in life. Without that, I don’t think I could have made it to adulthood in one piece. Life is sad, and comical, and full of contradictions and impossibilities and surprising acts of love. I hope that the fictional world I have created in Learning to Drive reflects this kind of world for you. I hope you love Charlotte and that you find her adventures noble and sweet and funny and true.


Mary Hays

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