Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven

4.5 stars Historical Fiction

Velva Jean’s daddy often took off, leaving his family wondering when he’d return.  Later, he’d walk back through the door, as if he’d just stepped outside for a break, and the days and the months that he’d been gone, you’d think they were just all your imagination.  When their mama died, the kids were at a loss, for their daddy was out somewhere.  When he got done wandering, he would discover that his wife had died and the letter that he had written to his wife, the one that she kept reading after he left, is what his children believe caused her death.

I enjoyed this novel as I followed along beside Velva Jean as she explored and grew-up in Sleepy Gap, North Carolina during the 1930’s. Velva Jean had dreams of singing in the Grand Ole Opry and considering her situation, I was impressed with this dream.  With her mama, gone and her daddy, a no-show, Velva Jean and her sibling were taken in by her grandparents. 

I think the grandparents did the best they could and I had to laugh when they sent two of the kids off to a bootlegger.  This incident lands the kids in jail which changes them forever on many levels.  The kids feel they have now crossed the fence from being “good” kids, they’ve met some new people, they seen new sights, and they’ve been arrested.

I liked the flow of this book.  It wasn’t an intense, action-packed novel but it had a calm, even-flow pace to it. It had the pace that I would think living in the mountains would have.  There was a singing competition that stirs things up as Velva Jean wants to compete, religion comes into the picture as Velva Jean started to worry about future, and it gets interesting when Velva Jean begins to mature and she runs into a fellow from her past.

I’m going to look into the other books in this series and I like books about the Appalachian Mountains and I enjoyed this novel.