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Book Review: In the Driver’s Seat by Helen Simpson

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In the Driver's Seat, by Helen Simpson, is a collection of short stories which talk about ordinary people as they travel on the highway called life. Sometimes the trip takes one down a straight path right to the desired destination. Other times, the road has bumps. These can be large or small, but they jolt the driver out of thinking 'it can't happen to me'.

Talk about dangerous! Warning signs often ignored lead to serious harm later. Perhaps a good example lies in young people who only try ecstasy once. The pleasure gained by taking the illegal substance turns temporary. Death just might come within hours. What was that about fun?

"If I'm Spared" focuses on pushing boundaries. Tom is a foreign correspondent, meaning he travels to exotic locations for news coverage. Most might think this brings plenty of excitement. Be that as it may, our newshound decides to push his luck by cheating. Does his wife suspect? Probably. She would have to be deaf, dumb, and blind not to have suspicions from the phone calls and other giveaways. A routine appointment at a doctor's soon gives Tom the wake up call he needs to hear.

"Up at a Villa" shows people taking a different risk. They go swimming in someone else's pool. Let's see, what could possibly go wrong? The fact they went skinny dipping does not improve things. Footsteps and voices alert them of an upcoming problem. The now naked four can only hide helplessly until an escape works out.

"Every Third Thought" shows how fleeting life truly is. A teacher on her lunch break understands. She remembers how many people she knows are in poor health. Due to one gossip's ever-blabbing tongue, she has little choice but to.

On the other hand, "The Phlebotomist's Love Life" shares the story of a woman with a certain thought consuming her. War. It practically has to be, since others around her do not seem to talk about much else. Some are colleagues while others have family members serving in the military.

All in all, these stories open the door to just how strong a writer Simpson is. Each is a gem in itself. The themes are timeless, but a fresh take makes the words interesting.

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