There was a lot I liked about Driving Stevie Fracasso by Australian journalist Barry Divola. I was for example, reminded of my fetish for the movie (and soundtrack) Eddie & the Cruisers (and its dodgy sequel), released in the 1980s – though I didn’t watch until sometime in the 90s.
Divola’s lead character Rick is a bit older than me, however he references an era I remember well and this brought back many memories.
This book is probably a little too densely populated with music trivia and detail for me (a music-heathen) but I enjoyed the underlying messages about family, relationships and change. The latter in particular being relevant for me at the moment as my own worst enemy.
Driving Stevie Fracasso
by Barry Divola
Published by HarperCollins
Source: Harper Collins
Genres: General Fiction
ISBN: 1460713087, 9781460759479
Jaded music journalist Rick McLennan knows his life is going south when he loses his job, his apartment and his long-term girlfriend all on the same day.
But then he is thrown a lifeline - a commission to write the story of his ex-rock-star brother, Stevie, and drive him from Austin, Texas, to New York to play one final gig. One small problem: the brothers haven't spoken in thirty years.
Rick knows it's a bad idea. But he's out of choices. So he gets behind the wheel of a beaten-up 1985 Nissan Stanza and drives towards his destiny. He's about to find everything he didn't know he was missing. It's September 2001.
Rick’s six years younger than Stevie so I’m assuming his fascination for all-things-music was influenced by his big bro. Despite their age gap there was an intimacy or kindredness between the brothers but unfortunately for Rick, his parents separate and at only 11, he’s forced to go with his mother and her new husband to Australia, while his father moves away and Stevie strikes out in New York on his own.
When we meet Rick in the book’s present (2001) he’s been back in New York for over a decade. He’s a jaded music journo and has become very cynical and very very strident in his views. He’s likeable however and he’s our narrator so we know exactly what he’s thinking and feeling. He drops us in and out of his past; of his childhood with Stevie and then the years since his arrival in New York.
In some ways this is a coming of age story, though Rick is forty. He’s forced to gain an acceptance of life and unburden himself of the past he’s carried around for decades.
There’s an obvious message here about journeys versus destinations. Once the pair set off Stevie wants to stop at every tourist attraction he can find enroute. It goes unsaid this is an opportunity for the brothers to reconnect, but it’s enlightening in ways Rick doesn’t expect.
This book is set in September 2001, in the weeks and days before September 11. The events of that day play a pivotal role, indirectly impacting on the futures of both Rick and Stevie. And on that note I really liked where Divola takes this book.
I mentioned this brought back many memories. I laughed at a reference to a Brady Bunch episode about the kids making a volcano in their backyard as the only two episodes I remember vividly from the show was that very scene (as well as one involving them making fake snow!).
I was also reminded of my own early musical education through Australia’s premiere popular music show Countdown, and of these pocket-sized books filled with song lyrics. Rick would be horrified by my taste though as it was tragic as a kid and remains so today. I certainly owned many of those ‘Hits of Summer 1999’ type compilation CDs back in the day.
Divola’s passion for music and his credentials and experience as a music journalist are evident. Hardcore music lovers and music aficionados will certainly appreciate this book and the depth of Divola’s knowledge.
To a reader, his writing is effortless and though the context of Rick’s thoughts or conversations are often related to music or bands, their relevance is universal.
Driving Stevie Fracasso by Barry Divola was published in Australia by Harper Collins and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.