The Ormsby Review: Just One More Drive
1287 Sure was gonna be rough
Reviewed by Brett Josef Grubisic, November 16, 2021
The “True Story of a Stuttering Homosexual and His Race Car,” Just One More Drive is Robert James O’Brien’s first title; but it’s not his first publication. Technically, the Drive of 2021 is a “substantially updated” version of a memoir that appeared in 2017. In the current edition’s “Author’s Note” O’Brien highlights the revised book’s “more satisfying conclusion.” By “more satisfying” he does not mean blissfully happy. Not even close. The “earlier book had a fairytale ending, but no life does,” the author remarks. With fairytale endings equated to tall tales, O’Brien’s “satisfying,” then, is closer in spirit to “realistic,” “honest,” and “authentic.”
Readers in the mood for an inspirational feel-good life story with decisive victories — odds crushed, obstacles successfully navigated — can consider themselves warned. For O’Brien, total victories seem out of reach; even smaller ones often prove difficult to grasp.
From a childhood of bullying and colossal self-doubt in “a culture that maintained being gay was a death sentence” to an epilogue titled “Where is My Fairytale Ending?” Just One More Drive discloses four decades of undermined potential.
. . .
Yearning to embody the kind of adulated masculinity he associated with sports cars (and with his father, an easygoing, self-made man), O’Brien instead faced a young man defined by general unease, anxiety, and shyness. “Catholic priests … loved me,” he quips, “I was quiet, obedient and easy to mould.” That gentleness, along with a stutter and sub-optimal writing and reading skills, made him a target in school (aka, “Satan’s Pit”), where he “felt stupid and ashamed.”
O’Brien counterbalances a thick catalogue of miseries with a forthright writing voice that’s welcome because it’s unexpectedly buoyant and intermittently lighthearted.
Read the full review at The Ormsby Review.