James survives the Vietnam War by hiding beneath a little green Jeep, watching his friends die on the battlefield. He returns home emotionally paralyzed with nothing to fight for and turns to the only salvation he knows, buying a little green Jeep of his own. When he gets a flat tire on the road out of town, he is forced to ask the elderly owner of a nearby farm for help. Through the chance encounter, he finds more than just the tools he needs to fix his car. He finds a job and, among the rolling hills, he finds comforting isolation, contentment, and Claire. Getting to know her jeopardizes the seclusion he relies on, a risk that pays off when they start a family and James finds a part of himself that he thought he’d lost forever. But soon, the life they built is threatened. James could lose Claire and everything he loves. He must seek salvation once more - in the form of a little green Jeep.
Over the next thirty years, the Jeep changes hands, passing between friends, family, strangers, and lovers. A single mother buys a car for her reckless son and destroys a friendship with a man who silently loved her for two decades. An insecure youth at the start of his career learns that the most important lessons are the ones you never set out to learn. A family torn apart by their differences finds that love can be that hardest road to take. And a big-city architect must choose between abandoning his grandfather’s dying wish to save the car or a restoration that could save them all.
A Maryland native and Pennsylvanian at heart, Jennifer M. Lane holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Barton College and a master's in liberal arts with a focus on museum studies from the University of Delaware, where she wrote her thesis on the material culture of roadside memorials. She once co-hosted a daily automotive blog and served as the president of a large car club.
She is the author of the award-winning novel Of Metal and Earth, of Stick Figures from Rockport, and the Collected Stories of Ramsbolt, including the books Blood and Sand, Penny's Loft, Hope for Us Yet, and A Good Day for Pie.
I was lucky enough to read this during a beta swap, and was wowed by the novel! (I did not receive any compensation for this read, and believe me, I don't enjoy every beta swap nearly this much.)
I don't read a lot of litfic anymore but this was a gorgeous, heartfelt novel with a really unusual structure. Maybe I should get back into the genre! The writing is stunning, too, and that always matters to me (as a reader).
Trying to avoid spoilers so--the story follows a chain of people as James' Jeep passes from person to person, connecting their interweaving stories which they each document in a black binder (that also keeps the Jeep's records) before passing on to the next owner. The story follows the threads that connect us as individuals--because we are always more tightly bound than we realise--and plays out the ways in which redemption manifests for different people.
This novel begins in 1964 when James is returning to his small hometown from Vietnam. Broken and guilt-ridden of being the only one of his friends that made it back from the war, James attempts to rebuild his life and eventually buys a little green Jeep. This Jeep serves as a sign of hope and starting over and is loved and cared for by James for many years until, unfortunately, circumstances require that he sell it. Over the years James has to learn to work on and take care of his Jeep and started recording maintenance and important information in a notebook, even adding in some narratives and photos. When James sells the Jeep, he gives the new owner the notebook, complete with the original bill of sale and the pen James used to sign it, and asks that he also update the notebook and keep it with the Jeep. Thus begins a series of stories about the Jeep and its owners that is an honest, moving, and beautifully written novel about joy, regrets, losses, and finding hope again.
I am typically a very fast reader and fly through books, but this one I read over several days. The writing was flawless and flowed well, so it wasn’t a challenging read. I think I just wanted to take my time to really embrace the characters and the stories. The book is divided into parts or chapters each time the Jeep changed ownership and I found myself wanting to set the book down and think about each part I had just finished, before moving forward in time and meeting the next owner.
Lane’s characterization was outstanding, completely bringing to life each of the characters so that I felt as if I could see and hear them myself. From the beginning with James until the last story about Alex and Kate, each character and the challenge(s) in their life was unique, important, and involved some sort of change whether physically, emotionally, family-related, career-related, and so on. Even the Jeep seemed to have a life of its own, and like a person or a family, it went through ups and downs, was treated differently, and was loved differently depending on the owner. However, regardless of which owner it was, the Jeep served its purpose and impacted their lives.
Of Metal and Earth invoked emotions ranging from laughter, to tears, to frustration, to happiness. The stories of these characters and their Jeep will stay with me long after this and this is a novel that numerous people will be receiving from me as gifts this year. I can’t think of a specific audience that would enjoy this novel, it is simply a must-read for everyone. I know without a doubt that all readers will identify with one or more of the characters, and as far as the other characters, there are wonderful lessons to be learned. Bravo to the wonderfully talented Jennifer M. Lane for creating such a touching novel that I will not ever forget.
If you’ve ever loved a car – or if you’ve ever driven a car whose battered condition was an allegory for your life – you’ll find something to love in this book. What I loved most is something we rarely see in contemporary literature: A glimpse into the unglamorous but full lives of people who live along the state highways of small-town America.
I loved this book for the smell of oil and old tires. The standard story of a young man yearning to move into white-collar America – juxtaposed with a story about a young man who finds that college is not the right choice.
In reading the book, which tracks 40 years of the life of a ’64 CJ-5, you feel like an eavesdropper at the kitchen tables of people who struggle. Along the way, you can inhale, along with the earthy loam and the car exhaust, some wonderful insights.
It opens with the story of James, the Jeep’s first owner, who is the lone son among seven friends from Elk River to have returned from Vietnam. Here’s a beautiful line as he opens up to his future wife: “I do get lonely. Something funny happens, and I want to tell you. I read a good book and want to give it to you. . . . Before you, I never looked forward at all.”
Later, about 30 years later into the life of the Jeep, there’s this wonderful, compact summary of the truth behind the Jeep’s new home: “When the veins of coal were bled dry, little but pride remained to support the people.”
This is the first spot, midway through, that identifies the setting as coal country. If anything, I would have loved to have gotten more of a broad sense of the region and its past glory and its eventual fall, which, in my mind, is *the* story of America right now. I wouldn’t have minded being told that we were in Pennsylvania or Ohio or West Virginia, just to get a better fix on the region and its history.
I was connected enough to these characters to have wanted to see, feel and know more about them.
I was interested in these people, every single one. As a reader, I felt, to some degree, like I was even invading their privacy. Bottom line: I don’t need a litany of crazy plot turns to keep me reading or a thesaurus of nervous tics to make these characters seem real. I’m sorely satisfied with a book that does not try to thrill me with its glibness, but that spins the tales of people who work on a car while they work on themselves.
1964, 4 friends: James, Andrew, Norman, & David had volunteered to go to Quế Sơn Valley, Vietnam. Elk River. James (Vietnam War vet) was the only 1 who came back. Tom (bar owner), & Lily (wife) offered James a place to stay, until he got back on his feet. 1967, Tom had his own apartment & a CJ-5 Jeep. Dr. Claire (granddaughter, vet) moved to Elk River, took over the farm & opened up her own vet clinic.
James helped her get things done/organized. It wasn’t long & they became an item & later got married. 1974, Claire got sick, & was diagnosed with cancer. Catherine (James/Claire’s daughter) would miss her mom. Elmwood (Elk River). Rebecca (MS finance student) had known William “Billy” A. Norman (MS Econ student) for a long time. The 2 of them got to know each other & she moved in with him. They both graduated & were moving to Washington, DC. Olivia “Liv” (mother), had bought Ben (son) William’s old Jeep. Officer Martin (Montgomery County Sheriff’s dept) had called Mark (mechanic shop owner). Ben had been charged with; trespassing. underage drinking, & a DUI.
Mark picked Ben up & took him home in the morning. All hell broke loose with he/Oliva. Kate, & Alex had got the 1964, CJ-5 Jeep restored/running. Was it just a summer romance?
I did not receive any type of compensation for reading & reviewing this book. While I receive free books from publishers & authors, I am under no obligation to write a positive review. Only an honest one.
A very awesome book cover, great font & writing style. A very well written family heirloom book. It was very easy for me to read/follow from start/finish & never a dull moment. There were no grammar/typo errors, nor any repetitive or out of line sequence sentences. Lots of exciting scenarios, with several twists/turns & a great set of unique characters to keep track of. This could also make another great family heirloom movie, or better yet a TV series. There is no doubt in my mind this is a very easy rating of 5 stars.
Thank you for the free author; BookSends; Amazon Digital Services LLC.; book Tony Parsons MSW (Washburn)
Lane chose the perfect title for this novel. Metal and Earth referred to the jeep, the one constant factor in this novel. Along with the title, Lane’s cover of a jeep in the middle of nowhere gives the reader the insight of what to expect. Seeing a jeep on the cover gave me an image to picture of what the jeep looked like.
Lane’s plot to have the story start with a soldier coming home from the Vietnam War was compelling. We could really see inside his head all that he was going through from what he saw while fighting in the war. From there, we see how much his jeep meant to him once he got home and how it was an important key in the book. The whole plot is set up around the jeep and the jeep alone. It is important to remember that fact. The dialogue between the characters really brought them to life. I felt connected to them and when one of them passed away, I was full of sadness. The conversations moved the story along at just the right pace, never making you lose interest.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a different kind of book and likes a story that comes around right at the end, leaving you with an “I knew it!” moment.
Seven ordinary lives are changed by their extraordinary relationships with a little green Jeep. This unique story starts with James, a young war vet who—upon arriving home—buys a little green jeep similar to the one he hid beneath to survive a fierce Vietnam battle. Over the years, the jeep changes hands and restores it’s owners as they restore it.
Of Metal and Earth is so aptly named. Reading this book is as satisfying as the smell of digging into deep dirt, and as multi-textured as rusting metal. Jennifer does an incredible job of breathing life into each character and letting us in on their personal journeys as the Jeep pushes each of them to tackle life from a different angle. This book is fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Like a restored car, take your time enjoying this read, because they just don’t make them like this anymore.
I recommend this read to anyone who has ever loved an old vehicle and for those who love searching for serendipitous connections in life. If you love a feel good story, this will stick with you.
Of Metal and Earth by Jennifer M. Lane is the story of a Jeep through which people's lives, and stories, become connected. Each transfer of title is a transition into a new set of characters, and their personal experiences. A notebook accompanies the Jeep as it travels from owner to owner. In it, a collection of memories is documented and added to. Each of the stories present relationships that need fixing, much like the Jeep itself does. The various owners come together because of the Jeep, and as it gets repaired, attempts are also made to repair their connections with loved ones, or themselves. The old vehicle is nothing particularly special, just some metal with wheels that gets people from point A to B. It endures. The people it belongs to are just as simple. They are earthy, hard-working people who face their day-to-day challenges, and endure. The Jeep is the "vehicle" with which they connect with each other, and examine the parts that need fixing. Lovely read.
This story, like the main character, the jeep, meanders through numerous owners and circumstances, helping each owner along the way, until it makes its way home.
After returning from Vietnam, a man buys a Jeep, which breaks down in front of a farm. That luck turns his life around, and as the Jeep and it’s binder of repairs and relationships travel from person to person, love abounds.
The writing is paced in such a way that it reflects the eras the Jeep passes through, from the 70’s to the 2000s. The people aren’t special or strange, but are interesting in their own way, and deserve the love they each find.
I especially loved the first and last couples, but all of them were good, the characters real and varied.
What a beautifully written book filled with stories of love, life, grief, healing and restoration. I am generally a fast reader. I found myself wanting to read this book slower just to savor the words. Jennifer Lane does a superb job of bringing the characters to life and making the reader feel what life is like in their shoes. I would suggest this book for anyone who is a fan of the TV show "This is Us"...reminded me so much of it. Masterful storytelling that made me want to buy an old car and restore it. Well done Jennifer.
Knowing I had little in reserve, waiting for one of my go to authors to release a book I went for a mooch around what was available on KindleUnlimited, this one caught my eye. Very enjoyable read about the lives that one touched, even altered by a little jeep. Half way through I knew how I wanted it to end, whether I got my wish, that the jeep would return "home" that's up to you to find out yourself.
Oh my goodness!. Just finished, and this is now my new favorite book.. I'm crying like a baby!. I started it then got distracted by work and finally (as a Christmas gift to myself) I took some time to finish it's. I was also suprised how easy it was to pick back up after having put it down for 3 months.
Delightful read! Well formed characters across a forty five year span. The relationships are really where this book shines. Lane has rendered them imperfect and shaggy, anxious and human, and they’re all linked together by a little Jeep, a shaggy, imperfect and lovable character itself. Definitely recommend.
I loved it. I had trouble putting it down. I would go to bed each night and intend to read a few pages, as I normally do, and put it down when I became drowsy. I ended up reading 50-70 pages each night. The general theme of the book, following a car through its owners, is a great idea and is poignant for "car people.” For those of us who have used our car as an escape, gone on drives as a refuge, bonded and made friends of other "car people" this was a touching read. The descriptive writing is impressive. I found myself smiling in appreciation at the use of language to describe moments, things, and situations. I found the characters and their lives relatable. Everyone goes through relationship tension, regrets, family tension, illness, loss and I think the expression of the emotions and reactions of the characters in those situations was realistic and relatable. I loved the Jeep's title change documents between character sections; I found the addition very touching. This book made me think of objects in my life that I share with others and objects that other people share with me, and it made me realize that this is the type of book that I will re-read again.
I love the way this book brings the jeep to life. I love the way it teaches us we can learn to love again, it isn’t always something romantic that brings two people together. And it embodies the love a human can have for their Jeep
This was my first read by Jennifer M. Lane, and it's such an emotional and beautiful story that still sticks with me years later. Lane's writing so effortlessly wraps you up in the lives of these characters. The little green Jeep is a unique and memorable link connecting these very different people.
Lane is an expert at conveying emotion through character quirks and little actions, and all of the sensory details - the scents of the Jeep, the condensation weeping on the outside of a beer bottle - help pull the reader into the story.
This book was hard for me to read. The story of James and Clare was especially painful. I recommend this book to any man who cannot deal with his inner feelings, or even know what they are. This doesn't mean women won't like it or find value in it. Quite the contrary. Beautifully written. And the contrast between city and rural living is eloquently done. For me, this is a book that will go into my "Keepers" collection.