“Driving Alone: A Love Story” By Kevin Helmick


This novella was a favorite part of my recent participation in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon. Clocking in at only 75 pages, I was able to dispatch it in just about two hours. What an experience those two hours were, though!

I’m not 100% sure where I first heard of this book, but it may have been at Bibliophiliac’s blog, which gave it a promising review back in February. I noted it as “to read” on my Goodreads account and later included it in an e-book buying spree. After reading, a song came up my random play on iTunes that has a stanza that fits the novella nearly perfectly:

“When I want to run away,
I drive off in my car
but whichever way I go,
I come back to the place you are”

From (of course!) the song “In Your Eyes” – on Peter Gabriel’s 1986 album “So.” The song was also made famous (infamous?) in the 80’s hit movie, “Say Anything.”


The novella’s protagonist, Billy Keyhoe, seeks to avoid his troubles by employing the “drive off in my car” approach. He is a very bad character who has just beaten his girlfriend for the umpteenth time and fears the promised retribution of her father, since this time the beating was much worse than usual. The initial stages of his flight include a pathetic failed attempt to rob a convenience store via using his “charm” to con the young female clerk, who ends up chasing him off with a shotgun (or does she…).

Later, on his way to Texas (he starts in Georgia) he stops to relieve himself at a crossroads and encounters the enigmatic girl, “Feather.” She seems to “appear out of nowhere” and appears to understand things about him that she couldn’t possibly know. She also has a “Cheshire smile like she knew something no one else in the world knew.”

When she says she is hitchin’ Billy offers her a ride. She quickly and continually gets under his skin by calling him “Cowboy” because of his hat. At one point the car hits and kills a cat darting into the road. She calls him a killer and he senses she doesn’t just mean the cat. Later, when he exasperatedly tells her he’s “had enough of her shit!” she replies, “Demons, huh?” When he asks what she means she says, “Demons. They always come when yer drivin’ alone.”

As a reader, we’re still trying to figure out the nature of this mysterious girl, and it is this subtext of her possible supernatural-ness that makes the novella such an intriguing read. It keeps the reader on his toes, providing a few “Wait, what just happened?” moments along with their sister “Wait, does that mean that…” moments.

Look for this book on Amazon.com

I got my e-copy at Barnes & Noble, but, searching now, I don’t see it available(?) It’s definitely worth a read if you can find it.

What are some of your favorite novellas? If you participated in the Readathon last month, what was your favorite read?




  1. Dale said,

    November 5, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Hi Jay!
    I’m not sure what the criteria for a novella is, but I’ve read a few books lately that were less than 150 pages. The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Hound of the Baskervilles were two of them. Both were very good. I’m currently reading Flannery O’Connor’s novel Wise Blood which is a little over 200 pages – not sure that counts as a novella.


  2. Jay said,

    November 6, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Hi Dale,

    For what it’s worth, I read both TPoDG and THotB, and considered them both “full” books. I don’t know if there’s an official “length criteria” or not. Under 100 pages doesn’t feel like a “full” book to me. Some classic novels are quite short too – Fahrenheit 451 springs to mind immediately.

    I look forward to hearing what you think of Wise Blood. I’ve only read O’Connor’s short stories and am curious how different an experience one of her novels would be.



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