Your Driver is Waiting is a razor sharp and darkly comic vision of a contemporary city, viewed through our RideShare driver Damani’s eyes as she cruises through it, its inhabitants’ lives flashing before her. This unnamed city is heaving with people, simmering with an undercurrent of threat, and wracked with protests and riots. Driving long hours for little pay in between caring for her sick and cantankerous mother, and drowning in unpaid bills, Damani is just trying to make it from one day to the next, while her friends rally on the frontlines of the protests. When Damani, who is Tamil, meets Jolene – a beautiful rich white social worker and activist who proclaims herself an ally of the oppressed – the chemistry is instantaneous; but as their fire burns a little too bright, and Jolene’s real personal life and social pastimes come to light, Damani is forced to confront what lies behind this vision of perfection and promise of a new future, until a climatic event that upends everything.
Damani is such a multi-layered and well-drawn character, as resilient and tough as she is vulnerable and romantic, and we find ourselves really rooting for her. One minute she’s pumping iron and reviewing the weapons in her boot – because you just never know when you’re a female driver in a city on edge – the next minute she’s lost in romantic fantasies of a future with Jolene. Yet we also see a more sombre and introspective side to her in her life weariness, and her meditations on how she might achieve more than basic survival in this city. Jolene is a character of extremes, as beautiful and captivating as she is misdirected and dangerous, while Damani’s friendship with one of her regular passengers, the mischievous old Mrs Patrice, is a delight.
Social commentary is strong in this one, unfolding through the eyes of someone who sees all the city, and through her friends, who are on the ground, passionate, involved and at the heart of things. I loved the dynamic in Damani’s tight group of friends, giving the author a great platform for exploring both solid and supportive friendships in difficult times, as well as the question of authenticity in activism, and of fundamentally understanding what is being addressed and protested.
The writing style is sharp, fierce and full of dark humour that suits our no-nonsense narrator. Yet she’s also a very good and caring person; we see this in the relationships she has with her friends, the way she cares for her difficult mother, and the way she responds to community prejudice towards her. Short snappy chapters serve to build suspense, and echo the flashing vignettes we see out the window through our narrator’s eyes, as we hurtle towards an inevitable explosion.
Exploring themes of politics, class and civil action, of queer love and messy infatuations, of identity and culture, this is one ride well worth taking.
Your Driver is Waiting is published by Atlantic Books on March 2nd. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my eARC.
Priya Guns is an actor and writer previously published in short story anthologies, gal-dem, Spring magazine, and anonymously in the Guardian. She is a Creative Writing graduate from Kingston University. Your Driver Is Waiting is her debut novel.