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The Car Thief

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  155 ratings  ·  45 reviews
In “one of the great coming-of-age novels of the twentieth century,” an estranged father and son struggle to get by in 1950s Michigan (New York Times–bestselling author Jennifer Haigh).
It’s 1959 in Flint, Michigan, and sixteen-year-old Alex Housman has just stolen his fourteenth car. Frankly, he doesn’t know why he does it. Meanwhile, his divorced father grinds out his
ebook, 305 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Astor and Blue Editions (first published 1972)
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Tony Viardo
May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Car Thief is about a teen with so much angst, it brought me straight back to high school. Alex Housman is a kid from Flint, Michigan who steals cars but wouldn't be able to tell you why. I can imagine James Dean at his best trying to play this guy's pain, but not quite capturing it. He loves his father, but can't express it. His alcoholic, blue-collar father loves him, but is just as inept. They've both been abandoned by mother/wife and it pains them in ways they can't talk about, but obviou ...more
Tara Fuller
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what an inspiring book! THE CAR THEIF is a beautifully crafted coming of age story. We see the story through Alex Housman’s eyes. A young boy living in a very broken world in the late 1950’s. He lives alone with his alcoholic father. His mother has left and started a new life with a new husband, taking his younger brother with her. He steals cars, not even really understanding himself why he does it. We see his journey through school, into the youth detention center after he’s arrested, and ...more
Mia Searles (The Muses Circle)
This review and more can be read on my blog here: The Muses Circle

The whole process of reading and reviewing this book came about in a completely different way. I am used to getting author requests, but this is the first time I've been approached by a publicist. Serena Ainesly, head publicist for Blue Dot Literary, asked me a couple months back if I would be interested in reading and reviewing The Car Thief by Theodore Weesner. The book has been described as a modern classic and "one of the best
Jessica Workman Holland (Tales Between the Pages)
Read the entire review at Tales Between the Pages

The Car Thief by Theodore Weesner was first published in 1972 by Random House and has had a sporadic republishing history. It was republished in 1987 by Vintage and again in 2001 by Grove Press. It’s newest incarnation in eBook format by Astor + Blue will ensure this literary gem reaches the wide audience it deserves.

I’ve been reading early American literature for my PhD program and “fluff” for the first few weeks of summer so I wasn’t at all prep
May 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story is a “come to Jesus” moment for anyone who reads it. It tells us of Alex, the son and of Curly, the father. They are together on different planes - the same house, sleeping, eating, living together barely speaking, barely existing most of the time. Mom left with the young brother, Howard, several years ago and Curly’s world changed dramatically. His drinking before more, his life much less and his ability to care for a son alone isn’t even worth discussing.
Alex has, at 16, done someth
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story follows Alex Houseman, a 16-year-old boy who has been stealing cars. He's a lonely child, abandoned by his mother and raised by his well-meaning but inadequate father, and he begins stealing as little more than a thrill. When he's finally caught he spends time in borstal; something which he has trouble bouncing back from once he is released and tries to fit back into school and his community.

The book reminded me a lot of The Catcher in the Rye, with its young, troubled protagonist str
Allizabeth Collins
May 16, 2012 rated it really liked it

When I fist picked up The Car Thief, I did not suspect the history behind it. I did not realize that is was originally published in 1967, or that it was more autobiographical than it was fictional. Upon reading the Introduction by Theodore Weesner (2012), as well as the Author's Bio, my interest spiked. The author had been though a lot in his life and I hoped to see that conveyed throughout all 391 pages of his novel; it was. The book takes place in Michigan in 1959, but the characters,
May 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As soon as read the synopsis of The Car Thief I just knew that I had to read it. You see, I grew up in a small town just outside of Flint and until 5 years ago lived in Genesee County or nearby Shiawasee County. I was born in Flint but never actually lived there. I did work for GM within the Great Lakes Technology Centre downtown Flint. Enough about me, however.

Alex is a teen living with his blue collar father. His mother left and took his brother with her. He gets into fights, steals automobile
Sean Kottke
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some years ago, City Pulse listed The Car Thief as the all-time number one Michigan book. It's a stunning, timeless coming of age story, as relevant and relatable today as when it was written over 40 years ago. I was really surprised how well it holds up. The odyssey of Alex Housman is a rust-belt, working class Catcher in the Rye, and my heart ached for this young man. The novel depicts one of the most tender father-son relationships I've ever read, and it brought a lump to my throat multiple t ...more
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya-noir
I had high hopes for this in the possibility it was a YA Noir in the tradition of S.E. Hinton, but no dice. The biggest problem with "The Car Thief" is that the protagonist has no personality or humor, so when he gets stomped in the locker room at school we don't care. He's no Rusty James, he's not even Antoine Doinel, just a faceless cipher with no soul, and that's why this book blows. But what do I know? Just read these delirious reviews...
"A work of consummate lives with the young h
Nicki Markus
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful coming-of-age tale that is well-written and compelling.

I got involved in Alex's story right from page one and it was fascinating to journey with him through his car-stealing beginning to the gripping conclusion. The prose in this book is deceptively simple and yet it is also very descriptive and centres the story in the present moment with great clarity.

That said, this is a fairly introspective piece and offers some thought-provoking observations on family relationships and t
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
The Car Thief, republished as an eBook in 2012 by Astor & Blue and now available in paperback also, was Theodore Weesner’s first novel, originally published by Random House in 1972. Weesner, a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, went on to publish several more novels and a collection of short stories and is said to be, though nearing 80, working on a memoir and a new novel.

Read my full review: Review of The Car Thief
Jun 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review: The Car Thief, Theodore Weesner

Described as “one of the best coming of age novels of the Twentieth Century,” Theodore Weesner’s modern American classic is now re-launched for a new generation of readers to discover. It’s 1959. Sixteen year-old Alex Housman has just stolen his fourteenth car and frankly doesn’t know why. His divorced, working class father grinds out the night shift at the local Chevy Plant in Detroit, looking forward to the flask in his glove compartment, and the open bot

It’s 1959. Sixteen year-old Alex Housman has just stolen his fourteenth car and frankly doesn’t know why. His divorced, working class father grinds out the night shift at the local Chevy Plant in Detroit, kept afloat by the flask in his glove compartment and the open bottles in his Flint, Michigan home.

Abandoned and alone, father and son struggle to express a deep love for each other, even as Alex fills his day juggling cheap thrills and a crushing depression. He cruises and steal
Sep 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
First Thoughts: This book is a coming-of-age story, but one that's darker than most stories of that vein that I've read before. Despite initial misgivings, I think it's pretty gripping.

(Originally posted on Alexa Loves Books)

It is very rare for me to be able to sit down with a book that deals with a pretty heavy subject matter, and come out of it having actually felt like it was worth reading. The Car Thief was definitely a lot more serious, and more densely written, than most of the books I’ve
Michele Collins
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book Title: The Car Thief
Author: Theodore Weesner
Publisher: Astor + Blue Editions
IBSN: 9781938231001
Reviewed by Michele Tater for The Coach Tater Review

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
― Leo Tolstoy

Alex Housman is a broken boy from a broken family. Nothing really shocking or unusual that he gets in trouble with the law for stealing cars, which he has no reasoning for doing other than he can. His home life consists of living in a small apartment with
Parrish Lantern
Jul 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Buick Riviera. The Buick, coppertone, white sidewalls, was the model of the year, a '59, although the 1960 models were already out. Its upholstery was black, its windshield was tinted a thin color of motor oil. The car's heater was issuing a stale and odorous warmth, but Alex remained chilled. He had walked several blocks through snow and slush, wearing neither hat nor gloves nor boots, to where he had left the car the night before. The steering wheel was icy in his hands, and he felt icy within ...more
Evangeline Han
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a coming-of-age novel like none other. We read coming-of-age novels dealing with mischief and the ups-and-downs of adolescence. The Car Thief has nothing of that sort. With a tone filled with hopelessness and despair, we read about a teenage boy who becomes a juvenile delinquent after stealing 14 cars for "joyrides". He comes from a broken family with an absentee mother and a father who comes back late a night or sometimes past midnight. If anything, The Car Thief sends us a resonating r ...more
May 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is rare, quite rare, to come across a novel that grabs you from the very first page. For me, "The Car Thief" by Theodore Weesner was one such book. As a matter of fact, technically, I was already hooked before the first page. I was hooked from the "Author's Note" onwards.

"The Car Thief" is essentially about the outcry of a teenage son, in reaction to the behavior of his alcoholic and ever working father. But, by no means, is it simply just a novel about that. It is a supremely written "coming
Heather C
This was a very hard book for me to categorize. In trade descriptions it is touted as an undiscovered American classic. It is also definitively a coming of age novel. It also has elements of historical fiction – although it isn’t quite old enough to be firmly seated there.

While reading this novel I had flashbacks to my experience in high school reading A Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; that in and of itself was a point of contention for me. Like Catcher it took me a long time to read this
Jun 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Sixteen year-old Alex Housman steals cars and skips school, almost hoping to get caught. His younger brother was taken away to live with his re-married mother who never bothers to see her oldest son, Alex. His alcoholic, divorced father works in a Michigan auto factory. Alex fantasizes about a girl in his high school, but ends up being stalker-like, despite her initial friendly attitude. Once he’s caught for stealing cars, Alex ends up in juvenile detention where he meets an assortment of lost, ...more
Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum
Alex Housman is sixteen and when he's not at home with his divorced alcoholic Dad, he's at the 24 hour movie theatre or out driving a stolen car around the city following girls.

This is a coming of age story about Alex as he tries to navigate his way through school with the shame of living where he does and having a father who drinks way too much and too often. Separated from his brother and then sent to a boy's home for stealing cars, Alex is wrenched from the only home he has ever known.

Christine Staszko
May 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never been a fan of male coming of age stories; I just can't relate to them at all. However, Weesner's book and the character he created had me hooked. I enjoyed the way the plot moved because Alex Housman is constantly getting into difficult situations, whether it is from his actions or another's, and you can't help but root for him to succeed. The mix of flashbacks to his childhood only add to the reader's attachment to the character because you know he wasn't raised with a cookie-cutter ...more
May 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Within the first few pages of the book we know 16-year-old Alex has just stolen his 14 car. We don't really know why he's stolen it, and even as the story continues we as the reader, or even Alex himself, never really seems to understand.

While this book was originally published in the 1970s, it does take place in the 1950s, which is funny in a way because this book could not only have been published today (and technically it is being republished now), but it could also take place now. Yes, there
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
First off, I received this book as an ARC from the publisher for a fair an honest review. Reading the synopsis and all of the favorable reviews, I had high hopes for this book. Unfortunately, I was extremely disappointed. I found myself struggling through this book and bribing myself into reading "just one more page."

I found that I could not make a connection with this book. Not being from the era where the story takes place, I felt a huge gap and separation from the story. Further, I continuall
Jun 22, 2012 rated it liked it
It's always interesting to read a "coming of age" novel from a different time period than my own childhood, so I was intrigued by this story. I think a good story, however, can transcend any time period -- that it doesn't matter when the person is going through their experiences, but what those experiences are, and how they are changed by them. Admittedly, other than having some familiarity with the cars from the late 1950's/early 1960s, I didn't have much to relate to in this book; I'm not a y ...more
When I read the blurb my ears perked up a bit. I mean, really. A young boy, Alex, abandoned by his mother, his father was either working night shifts or drinking. So Alex starts skipping school, stealing cars, smoking. I thought it was really interesting.

And it was, don't get me wrong. It was an interesting story. The reader gets to see Alex grow up from a troubled teenager to a young man enlisted in the Army. And you get to see the struggles he overcomes. Stealing cars, getting arrested, being
May 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, for-review
The Car Thief by Theodore Weesner is a unique book in this day and age. Taking place in the late 1960s, Alex is a troubled young man set on survival and nothing will hold him back. Through Alex's character readers are introduced to a very real way of life that some kids actually have to live. A broken home, addiction, crime, punishment, and the chance at redemption are just parts of the multifaceted gem that is The Car Thief. Alex is the "bad boy" who is much deeper and more complex than a lot o ...more
The Book
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Car Thief was a long boring read for me. It is about Alex, a sixteen year old, who unfortunately has a bad habit of stealing cars and was sent to a detention home. The beginning of the novel was very slow for me because it did not have much dialogue. It just went along and when I thought it was going somewhere with the plot, it didn’t.

Author Weesner gave very detailed descriptions of characters, objects, and locations. However, I felt it was too descriptive at times because I found myself a
Sophie Gonzales
Jun 11, 2012 rated it liked it
When I was contacted about providing a review for The Car Thief, I was immediately intrigued. It's not often a book is called 'an undiscovered American classic' (well, unless it's just me that hasn't heard it all that much!)

It begins with a lot of promise. In chapter one, we're instantly presented with Alex driving his latest steal: a 1959 Buick Riviera. He's guiding the car through a cold, snow-covered winter's day, aimlessly drifting from one place to another while he tries to decide where to
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Goodreads Librari...: The Car Thief 2 16 Jul 23, 2012 05:29AM  
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“Sitting in the bathroom, reading the book again, he became so involved in the story that his legs fell asleep. He kept reading, intending to get up at the end of this page, then at the end of this page, if only because he would feel more comfortable with his pants up and buttoned, but he read on. He rose finally at the end of a chapter, although he read a little into the next chapter before he made himself stop. His legs were buoyant with saws and needles as he buttoned up, and he had to hold a hand against the wall not to sway from balance. Then he checked the thickness of pages he had read between his fingers, and experienced something he had never experienced before. Some of it was pride—he was reading a book—and some of it was a preciousness the book had assumed. Feeling relaxed, unthreatened, he wanted to keep the book in his hands, for what it offered. He did not want to turn the pages, for then they would be gone and spent; nor did he want to do anything but turn the pages.” 2 likes
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