Lydia Modine is an automobile historian whose family life and, perhaps, career have fizzled. Feeling abandoned — her ex-husband is...

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“Drives Like a Dream”

by Porter Shreve

Houghton Mifflin,

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256 pp., $23

Lydia Modine is an automobile historian whose family life and, perhaps, career have fizzled. Feeling abandoned — her ex-husband is marrying a woman half his age, and Lydia’s three children have left home — Lydia has no one to commiserate with.

But Lydia Modine is no shrinking violet. In fact, the dilemma seems to ignite her inner moxie, as she creates a lasso of lies intended to rope her family back into the nest. For Lydia is driven by a dream of keeping her family together.

A bold lie and a secret that Lydia hides from her children propels Porter Shreve’s novel “Drives Like a Dream” into a swirl of sometimes comical, often heart-rending, misunderstandings.

Meanwhile, Lydia strives to unravel a mystery surrounding her father, a respected auto designer for General Motors, and in the process recounts historical details from the heart of America’s automobile industry.

Author Shreve is male, yet he manages to get inside the heads of the two women from whose points of view the story is told: Lydia and her only daughter, Jessica. Shreve has written an entertaining, often bittersweet, novel aimed at America’s mother-daughter relationships, specifically those in which the mother feels discarded.

Shreve also paints a fascinating portrait of the Detroit automobile industry, complete with its rumored conspiracies, and of the city’s auto museum where Diego Rivera murals portrayed a marriage of socialism and private enterprise — all history that was left behind when the Big Three abandoned Detroit.

Women who read “Drives Like a Dream” can be confident of learning enough to hold their own among American auto-history buffs.

Then, too, men might learn something from the author’s canny sense of what’s going on inside a woman’s head.