Pub Writes

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Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven

Posted by Caitie F on June 9, 2011

Title: Velva Jean Learns to Drive 
Author: Jennifer Niven
Paperback: 404 pages
Publisher: Plume (Penguin
Year Published: 2009
Rating: +++++

Summary (from goodreads):

Before she dies, Velva Jean’s mother urges her to “live out there in the great wide world”. Velva Jean dreams of becoming a big-time singer in Nashville until she falls in love with Harley Bright, a handsome juvenile delinquent turned revival preacher. As their tumultuous love story unfolds, Velva Jean must choose between keeping her hard-won home and pursuing her dream of singing in the Grand Ole Opry.


Velva Jean Learns to Drive is a stunning piece of historical fiction, set in pre WWII Appalachia. With a strong voice, a vivid setting, and a a cast of characters so vivid that I expect to run into them doing errands, it is the kind of book you won’t soon forget.

A lot of times, especially when it comes to women in my generation, we forget how far our gender has come in less than 100 years. Velva Jean was expected to listen to her husband no mater what and just settle down, marry, and have babies, She was even told by her sister that her dreams were too big and were a waste of time. Luckily, Velva Jean has others around her who love her and believe in her. paired with an inner strength that pushes her.

As many who read this blog know, I am not a religious person. This book had a very interesting take on religion and what it means to one individual be saved.  Watching Velva Jeans’ personal faith grow and change was one of the most interesting and thought-provoking aspects of the novel. I think those who enjoy Christian fiction/general crossovers will appreciate her journey and will be left with several things to think about. Others, who are more like me, will be happy that a message isn’t being pushed upon us and that it lets readers form their own ideas.

Velva Jean Learns to Drive also made me grateful for the support I have in my life. Velva loses her mother at a very young age, but has a large, loving family that looks out for her. One of her brothers is only two years older than her, but provides some of the most sage advice and insights on her life. He challenges her in a way only a brother can. She also has a caring and supportive grandfather who is willing to stand up for what is right and always believes in her, even if she is only 18 and a woman. The care and respect that he gives to all of the women in his life is a great contrast to many of the other men in the novel and time period.

The final thing I want to touch on in the novel is her husband, Harley. He does not start off as a mean man, Velva is much too smart for that. He is kind and loving. Their relationship may not be complete equality, but it is close. After an accident, he changes, becomes harder, and starts to be what we would call emotionally abusive today. Then, he was just being a husband and holding dominion over his wife. Watching Velva Jean see what he was doing and not being okay with what is expected showed a strength and power that I bet was more common than we would believe.

This was an absolute joy to read. I am really excited that Velva Jean Learns to Fly is coming out September 30th this year. That gives you plenty of time to read this book first!

I am giving away the paperback copy that was given to me by the publisher in the this post! Good luck!


5 Responses to “Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven”

  1. […] Top Posts 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die ChallengeFirefly – Why Did Fox Screw This Up?The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoyPathfinder by Orson Scott CardThe Lacemaker and the Princess by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley « Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven […]

  2. This was my county’s read last year and I thought it was great too. The author actually came here and she is gorgeous and gracious!

  3. […] by Stephen King 1. Little Green Men by Christopher Buckley 2. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen 2. Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven 3. Across the Universe by Beth Revis 3. Where She Went by Gayle Forman 4. If You Follow Me by […]

  4. […] Stephen King 1. Little Green Men by Christopher Buckley 2. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen 2. Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven 3. Across the Universe by Beth Revis 3. Where She Went by Gayle Forman 4. If You Follow Me by […]

  5. […] Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven […]

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