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Publisher's Summary

Set in Appalachia in the years before World War II, Velva Jean Learns to Drive is a poignant story of a spirited young girl growing up in the gold-mining and moonshining South. 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.

©2009 Jenniver Niven; (P)2009 Penguin

Critic Reviews

"It's a touching read, funny and wise, like a crazy blend of Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, a less morose Flannery O'Connor and maybe a shot of Hank Williams." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 4.7 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Thanks for a look into the rural South.

Narrator is fantastic! ! I often select a book because she does such a great job.

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Awesome narration! Extraordinary story!

What other book might you compare Velva Jean Learns to Drive to and why?

Coal Miner's Daughter, Forrest Gump, the Hunger Games, Doll House, The Book of Bright Ideas

Which character – as performed by Jenna Lamia – was your favorite?

Jenna Lamia was a pitch perfect Velva Jean. I wish she had narrated the entire series.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

All of the above!

Any additional comments?

I wish Jenna Lamia had narrated the rest of this series.

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It was just OK

What made the experience of listening to Velva Jean Learns to Drive the most enjoyable?

The book was entertaining but a little boring. I kept waiting for something, not too sure what, just something...It never came.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

A little bit more drama would help.

Any additional comments?

Really not a horrible read, just ho hum, yawn....

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Like living through this personal history

I absolutely loved this book, from start to finish. I thought it was so well written, right from the start, that it kept my attention every minute. I have lived in rural areas for so long I could have known these families, understood their loyalties and values and respected their sense of honor in life. There is a tough pride that has come from doing things that had to be done, without complaining, with a simple acceptance of life and death that is a rare thing in our modern society. I found myself cheering Velva Jean on, wishing for her dreams to come true.

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  • Jodie
  • Middletown, NY, United States
  • 06-17-14

Wonderful Story - really enjoyed!

This is a lovely story and I really enjoyed listening to it. Jenna Lamia is one of my favorite narrators and, of course, she did a fantastic job with this book. It is the story of a woman coming of age during times of change. The story is pleasant - very little in the way of violence - which is a refreshing break. Walking through Velva Jean's life with her, in a tiny town off the Blue Ridge Parkway during the Depression was fascinating!

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Slow but good story

I enjoyed it and it didn't demand my complete concentration so it served it's purpose. I liked it well enough to get the next in the series. However the narrator of the next one was different and i couldn't get my head around the fact it was the same character. I wasn't thrilled with the accent of the first narrator but I lived through it and the switch just threw me.

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  • Jancie
  • Melbourne Beach, FL
  • 02-14-14

Loved every minute of it!

Would you consider the audio edition of Velva Jean Learns to Drive to be better than the print version?

I loved Jenna Lamia's narration, as she brought Velva Jean to life. She made this wonderful story that much better. I understand she did not narrate the sequel, so while I plan on reading the sequel, Velva Jean Learns To Fly, I will read it, as I can't imagine this series without her narration.

What did you like best about this story?

Just entering into the main character's world, which was the Blue Ridge mountains of NC in the depression years of the 1930's, was a revelation. It's hard to imagine that kind of poverty and that kind of life, but Jennifer Niven took me there and I loved it.

What about Jenna Lamia’s performance did you like?

Her accent and voice was so beautiful. She brought tears to my eyes more than once.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When Velva Jean was talking about the time she accidentally killed a firefly and how it parceled her own marriage to Harley.

Any additional comments?

I knew nothing about this book and purchased it based on the many glowing reviews. I'm so glad I did!

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  • Bj
  • 12-24-13

Another good one....

This was such a cute story.....very well narrated/performed. I was looking for a story that would take me away from it all....something that would hopefully be a good mix of many things and this story did it. I really enjoyed the plot...and all of the characters. Ive listened to Jenna Lamia before and she is very good...and pulls you into the book every time. If you are looking for a book that will represent innocence, love, laughter, family complexities,this is the book.

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  • Elizabeth
  • Bellevue, WA, United States
  • 11-14-13

Superb narration, good story

Set in rural North Carolina in the 1930s, this is a coming of age and self-discovery story of young Velva Jean. While the story is enjoyable and simple, it raises great questions about life, love, families and marriage...what do you do when someone misunderstands your appropriate and helpful actions? What do you do when someone's actions of love are actually oppressing you? When is it appropriate to be selfless and when is it appropriate to be selfish? Is there room for both?

The audio book is excellent, with a narrator highly skilled at providing appropriate accents and voices. She clearly enhanced the book experience.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Great storyline, great reader!

I loved the captivating story of Velva Jean. I empathized with her all along the way, having lost my mother and having gone through many difficult circumstances in my own life.

Jenna Lamia is very talented and did a wonderful job of bringing the characters in this book to life.

I highly recommend this book.