Sunday, October 24, 2010

Life in the Slow Lane (Thomas Sullivan)

This book marks the first work of nonfiction that I've reviewed for this blog. With Driver's Ed an activity long-forgotten, it was intriguing to think about it from the instructor's point of view. Sullivan just happens to have first-hand experience.
  • Overall: 3.5 ҉
  • Content: 3/5
  • Originality: 4/5
  • Language: 2/5
  • Credibility: 5/5

On the whole, Life In The Slow Lane was at times encouraging, frustrating, amusing, and heartwarming, certainly as it was intended to be. I found myself shaking mental fists at corrupt business practices, being pleasantly surprised by the resiliency of these mistreated youths, and feeling completely appalled - yet fascinated - by some of the crazy driving mishaps that Sullivan relates.

The book begins with the author's employment at a Driver's Education company and details the various incidents that eventually lead to the end of his patience with its business practices. While this could all quite easily have turned into a bitter diatribe against corporate America and capitalism or the upper middle class, Sullivan tempers this with anecdotes about the students driving the cars. Suffice it to say that some stories were more lighthearted than others.

Through the descriptions of the towns in which these lessons took place, even I, a die-hard East Coaster, was able to get a feel for the gross margin of wealth between locations and the ways in which it affected the youth as well as one's impression of the area. Even so, there were moments when the explanations were a bit overdone. Granted, the sharp commentary usually allowed me a sardonic chuckle, but at the same time, it often reiterated points that were already established, such as the death of one community's economy.

The whole book was written using a laid-back manner of storytelling. It was relaxed and colloquial rather than academic, making the material readily accessible to a wide audience. Perhaps I'm outdated, but some of the slang flew right over my head. For instance, it took me a bit of page-flipping to realize what the author meant by a "tenner". The use of these terms has the potential to make difficult what the general tone of the work is attempting to make easy.

Something that I did notice, quite frequently, was the misuse of commas. There were sentences wholly lacking them though they were necessary, and others containing commas that didn't actually need to be there. This was one of two things that did bother me as I read. The other was the constant social commentary inserted in the middle sections of the book. The author touches upon topics such as race and religion, but this overextends the amount of material that he is trying to cover and has the potential to offend an otherwise interested audience. The ending also wrapped things up nicely, but it felt a bit as if the author were proselytizing rather than summing up the point of the work.

In general, the book was an entertaining read. I would have enjoyed more focus on fewer students to get a better sense of them as people rather than chattel, but this may have been the author's intention.: the students were a means of illustrating the effects of the company owner's shady management of resources. In contrast, the declining morale of his coworkers and the disappointment of various parents was always made patently clear in a very human fashion, making the ending of the book inevitable. I was cheering the narrator on as the final pages drew to a close.

(Review copy provided by the author)


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