Many of us can identify with the idea that a car isn’t always just a car. It can have a personality. It can be evil. It can be a companion, an emotional support vehicle. When a car becomes more than just a ride, it achieves a life of its own because of the lives it enhances.
There lies the hook of Jennifer Lane’s novel, Of Metal and Earth. It’s the story of a Jeep.
“It’s really about the way that these different lives are all tied together through this one object. It could have been a teacup. It could have been a coffee pot. It could have been a piece of furniture that they inherited. It just so happened that it was this Jeep. And in many ways the challenges they’re facing in their lives are kind of reflective in their relationship with this car, which is aging. And it’s all about the restoration and the rehabilitation that has to happen in the humans’ lives played out through their relationships with the car.”
Jenn and her husband Matt bought their Jeep, a used 1964 CJ5, but didn’t know how used it was until they got it home.
“When we got it home, every bolt was finger-tight. I think my eyes were bleeding because the carburetor was running too rich. It was the wrong carburetor. It needed a lot of work and It was fun. It was fun to take it apart. It’s kind of a symbiotic relationship that you have with the car. You’re getting a lot out of the process emotionally, intellectually, mechanically. You’re building skills. You’re forming a relationship with it and you really have to learn to listen to it.”
A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into rehabbing their Jeep. So while driving one day, Jennifer, who had written several books before, got the idea to write a book about a Jeep, its multiple owners and the journeys they took together.
“The plot of this book, the seven main characters, all came to me at one red light. And we came home, and I picked up an envelope that had come in the mail, a business-size envelope, and I wrote the outline, the bare bones outline for this book on that envelope.”
There’s a surviving part of the old Jeep on her display table at book fairs–the carburetor, which she uses as a pen holder. It attracts a lot of attention.
“You meet people, you would never ordinarily meet because they want to walk up to you and grab a car part and play with it and tell you about this old car they had or a Jeep their father had.”
Of Metal and Earth has an obvious appeal to Jeep owners and sells well around Christmas and Father’s Day. But you don’t have to be a Jeep lover to love Of Metal and Earth. You just have to love stories of people whose lives crossed paths with a special car they’ll never forget. Have a listen to our interview on the Type. Tune. Tint. podcast.