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Dzanc Books is nonprofit press specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction. In addition to publishing activities, Dzanc Books also supports the Disquiet International Literary Program.

Alison’s Automotive Repair Manual, by Brad Barkley

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Alison’s Automotive Repair Manual, by Brad Barkley

Barkley - Alison's Automotive Repair Manual - Cover.jpg
Barkley - Alison's Automotive Repair Manual - Cover.jpg

Alison’s Automotive Repair Manual, by Brad Barkley

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A widow in her mid-thirties, Alison has been mourning for two years. Now living in small town West Virginia with her sister Sarah and brother-in-law Bill, Alison is unable to move on with her life. Finally, she promises Sarah and Bill that she will start over—once she restores the abandoned, nearly ruined 1976 Corvette she found rusting in the garage and immediately loved. Unfortunately, Alison doesn’t know the first thing about cars, and the fact that the townspeople (with the exception of a cute demolition man) find a woman messing with automotive parts bewildering doesn’t help.

With beautiful frankness and surprising hilarity, Brad Barkley tells of a gutsy woman’s attempts to overcome loss, and fit into a close-knit community, in a triumphant look at grief, love, loss, and moving on.


"Underline this writer as one whose work needs to be on your shelf. You will be much the better for it." -Mississippi Clarion-Ledger

"An enriching fable . . . Heartwarming." ---Boston Herald

"Beguiling and utterly original, Alison's Automotive Repair Manual is a modern fable of love and community." ---Lee Smith, author of The Last Girls

From Publishers Weekly

Automotive repair doubles as grief therapy in Barkley's quirky, emotionally resonant third novel (after Money, Love) set in a small town in West Virginia, where a newly widowed young woman tries to delay putting her life back together. Alison Durst is the witty, 30-ish protagonist who's become a semipermanent guest of her sister Sarah and brother-in-law Bill ever since her husband died in an accident. She's already spent two years in mourning, and in spite of Sarah and Bill's pleas that she get on with it, Alison makes yet another bid to prolong her suspended state: she's going to rebuild her brother-in-law's broken-down Corvette, and then she'll leave. Of course, she knows nothing about cars. Sparks really start to fly, however, when Max Kesler, the owner of a one-man munitions company, comes to help her with the project. Their initial dates are as explosive as they are funny, with Alison accompanying Max while he blows up a silo and then scopes out the hotel that may be his next target. Barkley spends a bit too much time on Max's father, a compulsive liar whose habit is beginning to interfere with Max's relationship with Alison. This subplot slows the romantic momentum, but the combination of Barkley's understated comic style and well-calibrated dialogue is more than enough to overcome the misstep. The icing on the cake is the author's touching portrayal of smalltown life in West Virginia.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Barkley is back (after Money, Love), and he has a winner. Almost two years after her husband's accidental death, Alison Durst's life is at a standstill. Her house is empty, her teaching job is on hold, and she's still living with her sister and brother-in-law in their small West Virginia town. A moldering 1976 Corvette in the garage seems to be the way out of this "rest stop." Armed with the Haynes Automotive Repair Manual (quoted between book chapters), Alison endeavors to restore the car, which results in life-changing implications for all around her. With car repair as metaphor, we learn much about forgiveness and hope; the differences among facts, lies, and truth; and the grand importance of how and with whom our life journeys are made. Barkley steers this one straight into our hearts. Highly recommended for most fiction collections.
Rebecca Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights

Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Brad Barkley grew up in North Carolina where he still visits a few times a year. After that, he lived on the coast of Maryland, the mountains of Arkansas, the coast of North Carolina (again), and the mountains of Maryland (again). A pattern emerges. Besides Scrambled Eggs At Midnight, he is the author of two novels and two story collections for adults. He has also co-authored, with Heather Hepler, Dream Factory and Jars of Glass. To learn more about his work, please visit