From page one, this story is enormously captivating. At college Leah Kaplin has sex with a friend, for which she charges him $100 (why? why not). After the second time her friend confesses to the honours board and Leah is expelled.
The story continues apace and six years later Leah is working as an “executive administrative assistant to head of human resources at facilities management at the University of California”. Her boss has big plans for Leah but Leah doesn’t take her job seriously – it’s just something she’s doing until her real career (whatever that may be) gets started.
Next, it’s ten years later. Leah has married a man because his student visa was about to run out and he would have to return to Europe. It seemed like a good idea at the time. She is working as a writer and has just published her first novel when she gets the phone call that will change the course of her life.
Leah’s old boss, Judy, from the University of California, has died. In her will she has left to Leah her car – a red sports car that to Judy epitomised success. The catch? Judy died in her red sports car.
If at this point the story calls to mind The Ballad of Lucy Jordan, it’s ok. Leah is going to get to drive through California, if not Paris, in a sports car with the warm wind in her hair. Leah flies to San Francisco in time for Judy’s funeral. Even before she takes possession of Judy’s car it’s clear this is Leah’s re-awakening. It’s her do-over, her chance to get life right this time. But it’s never that simple – neither the car, nor Leah’s new life are going to be a smooth ride.
I suspect Marcy Dermansky has had serious fun writing this novel. It’s pacy, much like the titular red car, it’s unpredictable (also like the car), and best of all it’s just plain old good fun. Once you’ve picked it up it’s a difficult book to put down. Dermanksy keeps the action rolling and while she doesn’t delve deeply she leaves clues and plenty of space for the reader to do so.
Narrator Soneela Nankani is always on the money with her reading. She performs Leah with a young voice, a great match for a character who (whether she likes it or not) is coming into her own. She gives a great sense of Leah’s intelligence but also her naivety.
The Red Car is a surprise of a book – you’ll have loads of fun reading it.
The Red Car • by Marcy Dermansky • read by Soneela Nankani • 5.8 hours • published by Blackstone Audio • October 11, 2016 • ISBN 9781504745277