From a bright new talent, a witty, moving, and inspirational coming-of-age debut novel set in 1970s Brooklyn about a teenager and his abusive father whose obsession with broken down vintage cars careens wildly out of control.
“Such a pleasure to read.... This is a coming of age story, but it is also so much more than that.”—Dominic Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos
Nicky Flynn is coming-of-age in 1970s Brooklyn, riding into his sophomore year at St. Michaels, the last hurrah of the Diocesan school system. A budding young actor, Nicky is at once sensitive, resilient, exasperated, and keenly observant—especially when it comes to his father, Patrick. Undeniably enigmatic, and coasting on vanity, charm, and desperation, “Himself” as Nicky calls his father, is given to picking up old car junkers, for cheap at NYPD auctions—each sputtering, tail-finned treasure subsidized by poker games.
To Patrick, these chrome glamour tanks are his obsessions, repairable reminders of the past when he was young, and everything seemed new and gleaming and possible—before he had a family. For Nicky, each one is a milestone. Whether it’s a harrowing joy ride or a driving lesson, they’re unforgettable markers on his path toward an unpredictable future. But as Patrick’s compulsions slide into alcoholism and abuse, Nicky, his mother, and sisters brace themselves for an inevitable sharp turn in their addled lives.
Narrated with humor and a rueful awareness, Car Trouble is an exhilarating novel about acceptance, regret, compassion, and finding your authentic adult self amid the rubble and rumble of growing up.
Rorke's nostalgia-laden debut combines the tense father-son dynamic of Pat Conroy's The Great Santini with the automobile wonkiness of an episode of Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Readers are introduced to Patrick Flynn, the charismatic father of an Irish-American clan in pregentrified 1970s Brooklyn, as seen through the eyes of his son, Nicky, a sophomore at St. Michael the Archangel high school. Presiding over a household of five children, Patrick is in the habit of buying cars on the cheap at police auctions; he repaints them and gives them such colorful names as the Blue Max, the Green Hornet, and the Black Beauty. But under the bright paint jobs, these cars are barely running, which turns out to be an apt metaphor for Patrick himself, who is more flash than substance, a flaw that Nicky is wise to: Patrick loses jobs, drinks heavily, gets into fights, and abuses his family. At the same time, Nicky discovers his own budding interest in theater and cooking, and takes his first tentative steps towards becoming an independent adult, which puts him on an eventual collision course with his increasingly erratic father. Though it has a vivid sense of time and place, Rorke's novel is overlong and sentimental.