Notes From the Mid­night Driver

Jor­dan Sonnenblick
  • Review
By – May 14, 2012

Home alone, 16-year-old Alex Gre­go­ry, enraged over his parent’s sep­a­ra­tion and fum­ing about his dad’s involve­ment with Alex’s for­mer 3rd grade teacher, gets drunk and sets off in his mom’s car to con­front his father and that woman.” He doesn’t get far, but he’s lucky. The only vic­tims of the resul­tant acci­dent are a decap­i­tat­ed French lawn gnome and the cop he barfs on when he’s arrested. 

To Alex’s dis­may, a judge sen­tences him to 100 hours of pub­lic ser­vice, assign­ing him to vis­it some can­tan­ker­ous old guy at the home for the aged where Alex’s moth­er coin­ci­den­tal­ly works. Oblig­a­tory progress notes to the judge punc­tu­ate the action and raise inter­est­ing spec­u­la­tions as Alex gets to learn some­thing about, and from, old Solomon Lewis. Sol’s severe emphy­se­ma and appar­ent aban­don­ment by his only daugh­ter, have not sup­pressed his chutz­pah, Yid­dishisms, or zest for pulling Gotcha” sur­pris­es on every­one. With­out preach­i­ness and with much humor, the sto­ry will appeal to mid­dle school­ers as Alex is trans­formed, accept­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty and change while learn­ing — and teach­ing— forgiveness. 

As for Jew­ish con­tent: Alex, his best gal pal Lau­rie, and their fam­i­lies are not Jew­ish, but both old Sol and the judge are. The most overt­ly Jew­ish aspect of this book springs from Sol’s fre­quent use of Yid­dish, the wis­dom under­ly­ing his wise­cracks, and the basic Jew­ish val­ues such as fam­i­ly, com­mu­ni­ty and account­abil­i­ty, which shape the story. 

Alex’s ini­tial behav­ior and some minor scenes might make this prob­lem­at­ic for some very tra­di­tion­al schools. For ages 12 – 14

Rita Berman Frisch­er was direc­tor of Sinai Tem­ple Blu­men­thal Library for twen­ty years. She has served as a judge for chil­dren’s books awards, writ­ten chap­ters on chil­dren’s book for var­i­ous bib­li­o­graph­ic works and is a fre­quent review­er for Jew­ish peri­od­i­cals and newspapers.

Discussion Questions