Category Archives: Niven, Jennifer

Jennifer Niven. Velva Jean Learns to Drive. New York: Plume, 2009.

Rhinestones. High-heeled cowboy boots. Hawaiian steel guitars. Many people are drawn to the bright lights of Nashville, Tennessee, and Velva Jean Hart Bright is one of them. She is enthralled by the opportunities afforded by the city and consumed with her lifelong desire to be a famous Grand Ole Opry singer. When Velva Jean was a little girl on (fictional) Fair Mountain, North Carolina, her mother supported her dream by encouraging Velva Jean to write songs and to sing for her. After her mother dies and her father abruptly leaves the family to work on the Scenic (the Blue Ridge Parkway), Velva Jean quickly grows up and puts her wish for fame on hold. At age sixteen, she marries Harley Bright, a convict-turned-traveling preacher who grew up in nearby (fictional) Devil’s Kitchen.

Harley is initially a sweet and doting husband. However, his views of marriage are very traditional. He doesn’t allow Velva Jean to drive and he forbids her beloved pastime, singing. As she gets used to married life, Velva Jean realizes Nashville may be even further from her reach. However, she is headstrong, and when Harley turns cold, controlling, and fanatical in his opposition to the Parkway and the “outlanders” that have moved in to build it, Velva Jean refuses to be acquiescent. She realizes that her dream is too much to give up for a loveless marriage, and she leaves Devil’s Kitchen – driving and singing her way to a new life.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Historical, Mountains, Niven, Jennifer, Novels Set in Fictional Places