Death Benefitsby Sarah N. Harvey
Royce (aka Rolly) is having a bad year. Not only has his mother dragged him across the country in order to be close to her aged father Arthur, a celebrated cellist, but he's also recovering from mono. When he convinces his mother to let him finish the school year by correspondence, he's left feeling isolated and lonely, and spends his time watching TV and plotting ways to get back to his friends in Nova Scotia. But before his plans can be implemented, his grandfather has a small stroke. Suddenly Arthur needs more care than Royce's mother can provide and, after a couple of hired care aides quit, Royce is pressed into service.
Looking after a ninety-five-year-old—especially one as cantankerous, crafty and stubborn as Arthur—is a challenge. But as Royce gets to know the eccentric old man—who loves the Pussycat Dolls, hates Anderson Cooper and never listens to the kind of music that made him famous—he gradually comes to appreciate that his grandfather's life still has meaning. Even if Arthur himself seems to want it to end.
In this character-driven intergenerational story, Royce Peterson and his single mother have recently moved from Nova Scotia to British Columbia to help care for Arthur, Royce's 95-year-old grandfather and one of the greatest cellists of the 20th century. After the curmudgeon chases off every aide, the teen is enlisted to watch his grandfather. At first the homesick, friendless and mono-recovering teen and his homebound, rude and crude grandfather are at odds, but then Royce gains new appreciation for Arthur—he caroused with Gloria Vanderbilt and Picasso, traveled the world, loved and lost loves—and Arthur begins to appreciate life again. But just as the pair begins to respect each other, Arthur suffers a series of debilitating strokes and asks Royce to end his life. Inspired by her experience caring for her aged father, Harvey offers a realistic view of the aging process, the difficult decisions left to loved ones and the need for friends and family. Sophisticated readers and fans of Joan Bauer's Rules of the Road (1998) or Louis Sachar's The Cardturner (2010) will enjoy the grandfather-grandson banter and tenderness. (Fiction. 13 & up)
Read an Excerpt
"He's impossible, Marta," she says. "Absolutely impossible. Doesn't have any friends. Sleeps all day. Watches TV all night. Never showers. Refuses to cut his hair. Pushes his dirty dishes under the bed or stuffs them in drawers with his dirty underwear. I'm at my wit's end." I want to leap into the kitchen and say, "Hey! It's only two o'clock. I'm up. I've had a shower. I'm dressed. And I never put dirty things—dishes or underwear—in drawers. I leave them on the floor. And when were you in my room anyway?" I have standards. Low ones, but still.
I want to leap into the kitchen and say, "Hey! It's only two o'clock. I'm up. I've had a shower. I'm dressed. And I never put dirty things—dishes or underwear—in drawers. I leave them on the floor. And when were you in my room anyway?" I have standards. Low ones, but still.
Meet the Author
Sarah N. Harvey has written for both children and young adults. Some of her books have been translated into Korean, German and Slovenian. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia, where she works as a children's book editor. For more information, visit www.sarahnharvey.com.
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Royce can't believe it when his mother announces that they are leaving Nova Scotia and heading clear across the country to Victoria, British Columbia. He is going to be leaving behind all of his friends and the only home he has ever known, all for some grouchy 95-year-old grandfather he hardly remembers. If moving isn't bad enough, Royce is shocked when his mother says she will pay him to act as caregiver for his grandfather until school starts at the end of the summer. At least the pay she is offering beats what he would get flipping burgers at McDonald's. When Royce finally meets Arthur, he immediately has second thoughts about accepting this job instead of something in the fast food business. The old man totters along with the aid of a walker and watches CNN, MTV, and reruns of Little House on the Prairie. When he isn't captivated by the TV, he is yelling for coffee and chocolate ice cream or swearing at Royce. Anyone observing their daily rituals would never guess that Arthur had once been a world famous cello player and renowned womanizer. The relationship between Royce and Arthur gradually begins to change. He is still a demanding, cantankerous old coot, but he surprises Royce one afternoon when he demands that Royce take him for a drive. Considering that Royce only has a learner's permit, it is rather amazing that Arthur trusts his young grandson to drive his most cherished possession - an awesome 1956 T-bird. The afternoon drives soon become a regular routine. The summer Royce spends with his grandfather turns out to be valuable beyond his wildest dreams. Despite his often abrasive manner, the old man has an excellent sense of humor that matches Royce's own ironic view of life, and the companionship that forms between them provides benefits for both. When Arthur is stricken with a series of strokes, Royce is crushed to see the stately old man stripped of his dignity. DEATH BENEFITS by author Sarah N. Harvey is the entertaining story of a friendship that bridges the generation gap and shows how two people from different times and different worlds can come to know and understand each other deeply. Readers will quickly come to love both Royce and Arthur, and to appreciate how the characters celebrate the benefits life has given them.