Diane Donavon ,Ebook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
Amidst cultural turmoil and strife, the promises of enchantment in everyday life are often lost, warped, or repressed. America in the 1970s was such a decade: an era of war protests, bell bottoms, afros, and muscle cars, among other things. It may be a decade long past; but it comes to life with an unusual dual focus on muscle cars and memories in Metal Horses, a nostalgic reflection on love and identity amidst social disorder.
But protagonist Jason isn't the one doing the reminiscing; he's just an ear attracted to an aging woman who holds some answers to his past and owns a mysterious car in a shed, which he unwittingly finds to be the vehicle for not only car culture insights and an American obsession, but his own roots.
As his unwitting comment about his father unlocks long-barricaded doors in fifty-something Ruth's heart, Jason finds far more than he bargained for as he listens to a saga of love, redemption and loss: a tale immersed in America's muscle car community.
Metal Horses holds the potential for appealing to a primarily- male audience, with its car focus - but this is offset by the reflections of a woman. It holds the potential of being mired in 70s politics and social change - but it doesn't stay there, because this outer layer of time and place is merely the coat covering the psyches that interact with one another and fulfill dreams for different reasons: "When I was in Nam, I dreamed of owning a ‘55 Chevy. I made a pact with myself that if I lived, I’d have one. I don’t need to drive it, ’cause you see, I was able to fulfill that dream. I had buddies who didn’t get that chance.”
The fact that Jason's father Andy was at the heart of a culture Jason is only beginning to understand - and that his death in a crash has left Jason with many questions only a strange former flower child woman can answer - makes for a story that winds around muscle car culture to arrive directly at matters of the heart.
The Vietnam War drove rebellion into the hearts of the young and those who were threatened with the draft. It painted stark differences between right and wrong, moral and unethical behaviors, and it drove a wedge in the heart of the American public that some say remains unhealed today.
Metal Horses doesn't seem like a coverage of such events since its opening chapters revolve around cars - but, ultimately, it's part of a wider legacy that Jason has inherited - and one which is America's bequest, as well.
And in the heart of revelation comes the ultimate goal - freedom - as Jason's discoveries change his perspective of who he is and where he's come from, and why the truth has been such a close-held secret for all these years: "Andy never told you about the past. In some lives, it’s too great to bear. So people just forget.”
Can cars be enchanted, and can lives be charmed despite turmoil and change? Metal Horses is a testimony to the lasting effects of good and bad decisions, and is recommended far beyond the usual reader of either hot rod stories or novels of 1970s America.
Metal Horses is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other quality book retailer
THE US REVIEW OF BOOKS
reviewed by John E.Rope
"Green! Tires squealed as motors roared. Jay's car jumped ahead as the mouth burned rubber at the light. By the time Jay power-shifted second gear, his opponent was already gaining on him."
Every decade has images of events and cultural changes that help define it in our memories. The fifties had greasers and the birth of rock'n'roll; the sixties saw the emergence of hippies and man's first step on the moon; the seventies witnessed the long-awaited end to the Vietnam War and muscle cars. The latter began to fade away as gas prices ballooned, but in its heyday a souped-up engine with plenty of shiny chrome and a tricked-out body was the chariot of street warriors. Ames expertly recalls the days when having a fast car was perceived as an important mark of manhood.
Jason Ruder has no idea what secrets he is about to unlock when he asks about buying an old muscle car from Ruth Jensen, a reclusive woman in her late fifties. What he learns, though, as the older woman begins her tale of the car and his parents, will change his perceptions about not only that time but also everything he has ever believed about his family. Ruth's story brings the seventies back in rich and believable detail as she relates the loves, losses, and lifestyle of her young adult contemporaries as they cope with the looming threat of the draft, social and cultural barriers, and the search for a life partner.
Capturing the angst of American youth as brilliantly as S.E. Hinton did in The Outsiders, Ames faithfully recreates the mood, music, and cultural turbulence that so marked the early seventies. The humor and insights into the Amish brought by her character, Eze, give the novel an added richness often lacking in similar stories about the time period. In other words, this is one for your short list of books to read this year.
RECOMMENDED by the USR