“Little Toy Car” by Gabe Oliver

Little Toy Car

Gabe Oliver
Independently Published (2022)
ISBN: 979-8987018002
Reviewed by Stephanie Elizabeth Long for Reader Views (10/22)

From the plight of being fatherless for most of his childhood to his mother marrying Jacob, an abusive Bible thumper, it was clear that love had failed Gene. The more he rejected faith and followed his passion for playing guitar, the more ruthless Jacob’s beatings became. In his stepfather’s eyes, the teen was nothing but a sinner who deserved to go to hell. It became clear to Gene that if he wanted to break free of Jacob’s control and manifest his destiny, he would need to leave Colorado.

While in California, under the guise of friendship and love, Gene finds himself in situations that cause pain and heartache. Being lured into a religious cult, a destructive relationship, sexual abuse, and infidelity all cast a dark shadow on his hope for a better life. It seems like every shroud of happiness is replaced by interminable strife. Will Gene ever find the contentment he desperately seeks?

“Little Toy Car” by Gabe Oliver is a charming coming-of-age book that follows Gene from childhood through his young adult life. During the years, he struggles to find acceptance, love and belonging—often finding himself in dire situations which ultimately lead to hopelessness. These feelings are exacerbated by the abuse and trauma he endures, often leaving him questioning if love exists and if he’s worthy of it.

Love shouldn’t be tortuous or about constant sacrifice, and I must commend the author for illustrating this throughout the book. Life is beautiful, but it is truly agonizing if void of love. Through a series of toxic relationships—familial and romantic—Gene reveals a harrowing journey of self-loathing and emptiness. He can never find solace because he is always chasing nonreciprocal love. I think this will resonate with readers of all ages, particularly those who had instability growing up.

The book’s first half reeled me in quickly, and I felt an emotional connection to Gene. The sense of heartache was palpable through the author’s poignant descriptions of life with an abuser and Gene’s feelings of failure. But the same didn’t ring true for the story’s second half, as it was rife with short, simple sentences that lacked emotion. I wanted to know more about the relationships he left behind in Colorado, but it seemed there was a new trajectory.

Despite the plot veering off course and feeling scattered, the search for love was constant. I enjoyed Gene’s quest for meaning in his life—each experience brought him closer. Overall, “Little Toy Car” was a thought-provoking and character-driven read.

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