The Spark and the Drive
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The Spark and the Drive

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  55 ratings  ·  27 reviews
By an award-winning writer of short fiction, a devastatingly powerful debut novel of hero-worship, first love, and betrayal

Justin Bailey is seventeen when he arrives at the shop of legendary muscle car mechanic Nick Campbell. Anguished and out of place among the students at his rural Connecticut high school, Justin finds in Nick, his captivating wife Mary Ann, and their w...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published July 15th 2014 by St. Martin's Press
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(showing 1-29 of 899)
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Ron Charles
America’s love affair with cars has been running on fumes for years. With the bankruptcy of Detroit, the triumph of imports and our ever-clogging traffic, it’s harder than ever to recall when the country saw itself reflected in the chassis of a perfectly tuned automobile.

Of course, teens still want to drive — away from their parents, at least — but how many spend Saturday afternoons in the garage tinkering on their clunkers? Combine an education system that neglects vocational training with a cl...more
Larry Hoffer
Full disclosure: I received an advance readers copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

Seventeen-year-old Justin Bailey is growing up in a small, rural town just outside of Waterbury, Connecticut. Feeling socially isolated among his fellow high school students, Justin lands an internship at a garage owned by renowned mechanic Nick Campbell, famed for his ability to transform muscle cars into powerful machines.

In Nick, Justin finds a friend, a m...more
Betsy Hardinger
This novel resonated with me long after I read it. The story is a fast read and a page-turner—lively, original, and suspenseful. At the same time, it’s grounded in a moral imagination that prompts reflection, and pain, for the plight of the characters. It’s an American tragedy that plays out as we watch in fascination, hope, and dread.

The narrator, Justin, is nineteen, so we see the story through a filter of intense emotion that flies off every page. The other main characters—Justin’s parents; h...more
Lolly LKH
I enjoyed this novel more than I thought I would, as it deals with a teenage boy who idolizes car mechanic Nick Campbell. I have zero abilities with anything mechanical, and I thought fans of The Fast and the Furious would like this. Not so. It is a walk through the painful yearnings and betrayals of love. Just how much do we risk for what the heart wants, and are we willing to hurt those we idolize to get what we think we need? There are quite a few jaded adults in this story, those who have lo...more
May 03, 2014 Jessica rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: won
Full review:

When I received an ARC of this novel my first initial thought was that I love the title of it and I love that it’s something different from what I usually buy or receive. I couldn’t wait to crack into it because the promising storyline was very present in my mind and it looked to be a fun and thoughtful read, which is everything we can ask for in a good story.

It didn’t disappoint me and I definitely recommend checking it out on its release dat...more
James Hausman
Wayne Harrison shows all the potential to become a major literary voice. Once a mechanic himself, in his debut novel, The Spark and the Drive, he writes intimately about the oily glamour of working under a hood, with a precision equal to the machines he extols.

He based this novel on his short story, Least Resistance, which was included in The Atlantic’s 2009 fiction edition, and subsequently anthologized in Best American Short Stories the following year. He chose the little known town of Waterbu...more
A book set against the backdrop of an abandoned Biblical theme park called Holy Land — what's not to like? Justin, the main character, has washed out of his tony high school and is plunged into a completely different world, as are we, the reader. For a female reader this book is an especial pleasure, because we're in Justin's viewpoint so securely that we can get a rare and persuasive experience of what it's like to be a young man, with all its challenges and promises. Like approximately one bil...more
The Spark and the Drive delivers on its title. With gorgeous prose and complex working-class characters, this book explores the combustible life of Justin Bailey, a young mechanic who falls for his boss's wife. But Justin does more than inhabit this raw and highly-charged world; he is also a careful observer, and that is what makes this book such a pleasure to read. Justin has a gift for recognizing the romance and beauty in the most tattered environments, and he has the courage to stare unflinc...more
A great read. Flawed characters that really suck you in. I also really enjoyed that the book revolved around a mechanic shop and the American muscle car.
When I first received this novel in the mail, I thought it would be all about mechanics and car repair. My reaction proves it's not always possible to really know a book until you open it and start reading a bit. The Spark And The Drive by Wayne Harrison is about more than I could ever imagine. I would say Mr. Harrison deals with the nuts and bolts of life experiences. In this instance, the novel mainly is about a couple's struggles to deal with the loss of a baby. Around this one event will swi...more
Goodreads Win

Justin Barker is a teenager who ends up working at a car shop of a famous mechanic Nick Campbell. He is a typical outcast at school who has his own problems at home with a drunken mother and a younger sister.

He idolizes Nick as he learns the trade but is tongue tied around Nick’s wife Mary Ann. Falling into the world of fast cars, he finds himself a sense of being a family.

When tragedy hits Nick and Mary Ann their lives begin to crumble and Nick tries to keep it together. Covering...more
Tashia Jennings
I get the pleasure of reading this book by Wayne Harrison for free thanks to Goodreads First Reader giveaways!

The author, Wayne Harrison, takes his own personal experience or should one say his joy and passion for cars, especially muscle cars and shares it in a way the reader can not only relate to but absorb the excitement. What red blooded American male can resist horsepower and the mechanics that is involved in it? In this case the male, Justin, a social misfit living in a small rural town ge...more
This review was published in the 7/1/14 issue of Library Journal:

Debut author Harrison mines his own background as an auto mechanic to deliver a gritty, authentic tale of a complicated marriage threatened by a first love. During the summer of 1985, 17-year-old Justin Bailey interns at Nick Campbell's garage Out of the Hole, one of the few places around that specializes in muscle cars. Years after his own father "accepted his sexuality" and his mother began her descent into alcoholism, Justin fin...more
Caye Mulhearn
I'm not much of a fan of cars but this book was magical. The characters are so engaging and real I felt as if I knew them. It captured me emotionally to the point where I disagreed with some of their decisions and hoped it would turn out differently. Not that the author did a bad job with the plot, but I wanted more for them although it just wasn't in their fate. I did learn some interesting things about hot rods and got to view the life of mechanics I wouldn't have known otherwise. Amazing dial...more
I won this book off of Bookreporter.

Was not sure really sure on this book, but took a chance with it. It is about a teen boy who Idolizes a car mechanic. My dad was a car mechanic who everyone thought was the best. So I thought I would read the book and see how it was.

I found the author had to of done some research on what it takes to be a good mechanic. The characters came to life in the story.

The story did not center around just being a mechanic and fixing cars. The story took you into the li...more
While this story was billed as a love story, it was actually a very different book than I typically read. As told in the fascinating male-only first person POV, the book provided some interesting insight into the late teenage years of a male as he came into his own and found a place in the world.

The male author is a former auto mechanic, and the book is extremely heavy on the workings of cars from the past and how all the engines changed with computerized parts, revolutionizing the industry an...more
When I started reading this book, I was bored and confused by all the car talk. All of the reviews I had read raved about this book and said that it wasn't necessary to know about cars or to be interested in cars in order to love this book so I kept reading and I'm so glad I did because this was a really great book.
Justin is just a kid in high school when he meets Nick and Mary Ann and begins an internship in Nick's auto mechanic business. When he's done with high school he decides he doesn't w...more
Richard Becker
As a rudderless teenager still smarting from the divorce of his parents after his father declared he liked men, Justin Bailey was primed to look up to the mechanic. Nick Campbell was strong, intelligent, and masculine — everything he wanted his father to be. The internship was a dream come true until tragedy turns adulation into a passive-agressive obsession.

While author Wayne Harrison's experience as an auto mechanic lends notable authenticity to the novel, it's his ability to convince readers...more
Phil Meagher
This is a terrific book. Unlike anything I've ever read. Perhaps it's just me, but I truly connected with the main character here. So young and naive- but trying his absolute best to be a man, desperately, despite the reality. The mechanical work described in this book is also fascinating. One of my favorite elements. The inside cover quote by Maggie Shepard says what I think is the ultimate story and lesson: "...twists of fate that make one boy into a man and lead him to the painful discovery t...more
John Luiz
I loved the short story upon which this novel was based. When I read it, I immediately flagged Harrison as a writer whose career I wanted to follow. While he clearly has a lot of talent, I can't say I entirely enjoyed this novel. The plot veers off in so many directions from the original great premise of a young mechanic who finds work in the garage of a man he admires and then develops a huge crush on the man's wife. From there, we get sidetracks into a gang of high school boys who do James Dea...more
**Thanks to Goodreads Giveaways/St. Martin’s Press for this ARC!**

This is a tricky book for me to rate. Overall I liked it. It’s not a happy story, nor does it move at a quick pace, but there is something there that makes you keep reading. The author has written these rich characters that are flawed in the all the ways humans naturally are…I think this is what compels you to continue reading. The writing is good, but I hesitate to call it well-written, as too often I had to go back and re-read w...more
While I enjoyed the general story line of this book, I found it lacking in certain areas. It felt to me that just as I was starting to feel a connection to the story and characters, the chapter would end abruptly and I would be left wanting more. It all just felt a little rushed to me, particularly the end. But, on a more positive note, the fact that I know absolutely nothing about cars didn't really come into play. Harrison wrote this in a way that the average person could relate to, but car fa...more
Teresa Silva
I won this book in one of the Goodreads Giveaways. I gave this book 3 stars because I believe this author has potential. This book was good but it was hard for me to get into it. I kept losing interest as I was reading. I almost just said no more and stopped but I thought I'd give it a chance and continue reading. I think the way it was written and worded is what through me off, and it seemed at times to be jumbled. Also it seemed like he was giving way too much details with every single little...more
Writing's nice and smooth (like a well oiled machine). The story itself, however, gave me a serious case of the crankies (as tales of people treating each other like crap tend to do).
Gearheads will like this, but don't expect an over the top read. Perhaps I'm too old to read this and have ture empathy with the lead character.
Katherine Ivan
I have to ponder on why I wasn't as impressed with this book as the other folks who've posted reviews so far. For me, it was a solid debut novel effort, but didn't set my world afire.
John Wintersteen
Jun 21, 2014 John Wintersteen marked it as wish-list-possibles
Saw on newsletter 6/21/14. 17 ratings 4.47. Not out until July.
hazin sayed
hazin sayed marked it as to-read
Sep 16, 2014
Lisa marked it as to-read
Sep 14, 2014
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Before working as a corrections officer in Rutland, Vermont, Wayne Harrison was an auto mechanic for six years in Waterbury, Connecticut. A first-generation college student, he began in his mid twenties as a criminal justice major before getting turned on to creative writing by mentor and friend Jeffrey Greene. He later received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
His fiction has been featured...more
More about Wayne Harrison...
The Best American Short Stories 2010 (The Best American Series (R))

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“The vision ends there, and I stay with it until the same bristle comes, the same bold dreams of transformation. I want to speak, to tell her the word she wanted, and to talk to them with the words I have now, as the husband, the father, the man at last. But the man can’t change the boy, and anything I tell them they couldn’t hear.” 1 likes
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