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Set in the Palms, a Florida retirement center, Recessional follows several residents over the course of a year as their individual narratives - humorous, moving, or sometimes triumphant - unfold. Chris Mallory reluctantly relinquishes his driver's license at the age of ninety, but refuses to hang up his dancing shoes. The Palm's five self-appointed elders, all once outstanding in their respective careers, hotly debate current affairs and plot a daring flying adventure; Laura Oliphant, former head of a private ...
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Recessional: A Novel

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Set in the Palms, a Florida retirement center, Recessional follows several residents over the course of a year as their individual narratives - humorous, moving, or sometimes triumphant - unfold. Chris Mallory reluctantly relinquishes his driver's license at the age of ninety, but refuses to hang up his dancing shoes. The Palm's five self-appointed elders, all once outstanding in their respective careers, hotly debate current affairs and plot a daring flying adventure; Laura Oliphant, former head of a private school for girls, never stops learning and never stops educating others, especially about the natural wonders of Florida; and Reverend Helen Quade, the Palms's unofficial pastor, finds an unexpected romance. We meet, too, the families of some of the Palms's residents - among them an independent, unconventional young woman who owes her success to the aunt who encouraged her always to follow her own instincts; and the devoted children of one resident who grapple with difficult decisions about their elderly mother's final days. When they are confronted with any important question that affects their closely knit community, the Palms residents band together and offer the new director, Andy Zorn, both their support and their suggestions.

As the new young director of the Palms, a Florida retirement home, Andy Zorn suffers no shortage of loving support and wise advice from his "elders, " a group of passionate, outspoken residents who refuse to accept the passive roles that society and family have handed them.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The veteran author's extended exploration of the world of geriatrics is an up and down affair, alternating inspiring episodes with clich-ridden narratives. Andy Zorn, a young doctor running from a past scandal, has been hired by geriatric mogul John Taggart to revitalize the Palms, a Tampa retirement community that's fallen into a minor malaise of both profits and morale. Michener sets up his usual labyrinthine sprawl of secondary characters, but what's missing is the unique sense of place that's driven his best works in the past. This time, Michener applies his research to the ravages of old age that plague the Palms' population, but the level of detail often seems unnecessary for the story he's telling. Some episodes and characters are touching: the tale of a seemingly mismatched couple in which the husband cares for the wife after she contracts Alzheimer's; a series of stories about four elder statesmen in the home who conspire to build and fly an airplane; and the saga of a widow who must make some difficult decisions after a biopsy for breast cancer. On the negative side, the romantic subplot between Zorn and a handicapped woman whom he rescues after a car accident reads like fodder for a bad TV movie; the doctor's efforts to provide care for an AIDS patient outside the home have similar problems with realism-the worst offense being a series of passages told from the perspective of a rattlesnake. It's obvious that Michener, who turns 87 this year, finds his subject engaging-but there's not quite enough inspiration here to place this with his top-shelf work. Major ad/promo; Random House Audiobook. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Unjust malpractice suits have driven Andy Zorn, M.D., from obstetrics, and he begins a new life as director of a retirement community, The Palms, more than a thousand miles away from his Chicago home. The Palms offers well-off retirees comfortable apartments as well as nursing home and hospice facilities if the need arises. Andy's main job is to turn this place into a moneymaking proposition for its wealthy owner. Predictably, the staff and most of the residents have a story to tell. This novel shows Michener at his worst: long-winded and stultifying. Implausible characters abound, and the background research is shallow at best. In the case of a resident who discovers she has breast cancer, the author's simplistic explanation is misleading. Nevertheless, the author is well known, and major publicity will result in plenty of demand. Buy accordingly. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/94.]-Patricia Altner, Dept. of Defense Lib., Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C.
From the Publisher
“The best moments in the novel occur when the characters disclose what’s in their hearts and minds with rueful, snappy humor.”The New York Times Book Review
“Michener hooks you with wonderfully humorous scenes. These are then interwoven between the moments of pain and heartache brought about by life choices we all must make.”Tulsa World
“Engaging . . . One will be drawn into the novelist’s world. . . . The lush natural setting provides James Michener plenty to show and tell.”The Washington Times
From Barnes & Noble
One of the world's most revered & best-loved novelists, Michener is now one of America's most respected senior citizens. His latest novel, set in the Palms, a Florida retirement center, follows the humorous, moving, & often triumphant stories of its residents.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780517171493
  • Publisher: Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/15/1996

Meet the Author

James A. Michener was one of the world’s most popular writers, the author of more than forty books of fiction and nonfiction, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Tales of the South Pacific, the bestselling novels The Source, Hawaii, Alaska, Chesapeake, Centennial, Texas, Caribbean, and Caravans, and the memoir The World Is My Home. Michener served on the advisory council to NASA and the International Broadcast Board, which oversees the Voice of America. Among dozens of awards and honors, he received America’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1977, and an award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities in 1983 for his commitment to art in America. Michener died in 1997 at the age of ninety.


James Albert Michener is a Pulitzer prize-winning author reknowned for his historical epics. A prolific novelist and relentless researcher, Michener wrote over books. Despite his substantial commercial success, he was known to be a humble man and a was an active philanthropist. His many beloved works include Tales of the South Pacific, which was adapted for Broadway and film as South Pacific, Hawaii and The Source.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      James Albert Michener (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 3, 1907
    1. Date of Death:
      October 16, 1997
    2. Place of Death:
      Austin, Texas

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2006

    A Preview of Aging in a Fla. Retirement Community

    The fact that this book was published in 1994 and it probably took Michner a couple of years to put it together,I was impressed with his far thinking of what these retirement communities presently consist of. I do feel some of it was like a fantasy. The four elderly men building the plane, the double amputee able to play tennis. I did like the way he showed what the legal profession is doing to the medical profession. What I wonder about is what did the snake represent. I feel it was some kind of symbolism, as he went into great detail about it. I would welcome any thoughts on this. Thank you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    One of Micheners best.

    Recessional is one of those books I read when it frist came out, I gave my first copy to a friend as I did several other copies I have bought since. This is a wonderful read, it is so real, and a great story. I will probably give this one to someone after I read it, and I will have to buy more. I can't say how often I have read this book, several, I seem to need to read it again every couple of years or so.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2000


    Fascinating fictional account of what could be the actual account of Assisted Living and Long Term Care. Excellent portrayal of life in the golden years.

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