It's 1975. Bud Salem, 18-years-old, is fleeing his mother's TV church and meets a woman pitching oranges in the Mojave. She's Sylvia Cushman, a 45-year-old housewife, who loves driving alone through the desert. They odyssey through western motels and Apache gas stations where Sylvia gives long lectures about Emily Dickinson and drags Bud up into the mesas to search for petroglyphs. After sharing adventures in Detroit, New York, and Amherst, the travelers part...
In many ways "Let the Dog Drive" is an askew detective novel-- when a character dies under strange circumstances in Texas, Bud goes to the panhandle to uncover what happened. His strange narration does contain pleasures of the genre: a shootout inside an aquarium; a faked death; another shootout on a chicken farm in Texas...But "Let the Dog Drive" is also a freewheeling merging of many other genres and concerns-- Hollywood, hardboiled novels of the 1930s, Emily Dickinson's white dress, hallucinatory cacti, The Book of Luke...And dogs.
"You'd think nothing would live up to this title, but the book, being more generous as well as witty, more than tops it...incandescent."
-The New Yorker