The Last Resortby Alison Lurie
In her first novel in ten years, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alison Lurie returns with a mordantly comic story of love, death, and new beginnings. For a quarter of a century, Jenny Walker has devoted her life to her much older husband, the famous writer and naturalist Wilkie Walker. But since his retirement, Wilkie has become increasingly depressed and withdrawn.… See more details below
In her first novel in ten years, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alison Lurie returns with a mordantly comic story of love, death, and new beginnings. For a quarter of a century, Jenny Walker has devoted her life to her much older husband, the famous writer and naturalist Wilkie Walker. But since his retirement, Wilkie has become increasingly depressed and withdrawn. More worrying, Wilkie hasn't finished the important new book that is to be the culminating work of his life, a biography of the famous copper beech on the Convers College campus. Convinced that a warmer climate will thaw his affections, Jenny persuades her husband to spend the winter in Key West, the "Last Resort." For Wilkie, the Last Resort has a darker connotation. Believing that his work has become irrelevant and that, contrary to medical evidence, he is dying of cancer, he has come to Key West to plan his own "accidental" death by drowning -- a task that turns out to be more difficult than he thought. But Key West has a way of turning lives upside down, and even casual visitors find themselves drawn into previously unthinkable experiences. The Last Resort is at once a perfect evocation of Key West and its colorful denizens and a dazzling demonstration of Lurie's talent for high comedy and social comment.
The New York Times
Wilkie, convinced that time has passed him by and that anyway he has cancer, has begun to be brusque with his beloved and ultra-loyal wife, Jenny. Determined to drown himself from a handy beach, he finds fate intervening with infuriating regularity. Meanwhile, Jenny, feeling abandoned, is beginning to taste the pleasures of lesbian love with Lee Weiss, a veteran earth-mother islander who runs a women-only guesthouse. Then there's handsome gardener Jacko, who has AIDS, his bumbling, animal-loving cousin Barbie and her ferocious mother, Myra, and ex-Beat California poet Gerry, who also has eyes for Jenny. Lurie puts her well-chosen cast through their paces with expert aplomb and with often hilarious and occasionally touching results. She is as witty as ever, if not quite as malevolent as of yore, and the novel is a perfect summer read: entertainment that is at once highly intelligent and mildly edifying.
For 25 years, Jenny Walker has been a contented help mate to her famous husband Wilkie. She has done the research, typed drafts, and corrected the grammar for the nature books that have made his reputation, and she's dealt with the mundane details of everyday life she considers him too important to bother with. Now, at 46, she finds her 71-year-old spouse distracted, remote, uninterested even in his work in progress. Wilkie, we learn, thinks he has cancer and considers himself a has-been: What will his helpless wife do when he's gone? Before that's a problem, Jenny, with her customary tact, suggests a sojourn in Key West, presenting it as a way for her to get away from the New England winter rather than as a respite for Wilkie. In the steamy, unfettered atmosphere of America's last resort, she makes friends with a crew of free spirits most notably HIV-positive gardener Jacko and lesbian proprietor of a women-only guesthouse Lee while Wilkie plots his suicide and is stymied in three mordantly comic episodes. The plot thickens with Jenny's increasingly warm feelings for Lee and with the arrivals of Jacko's downtrodden cousin Barbie and her overbearing, right-wing Republican mother Myra.
As usual, Lurie observes with precision and humor everything from the economics of retirement homes to trendy restaurants and waiters who announce themselves by name. Her characters stumble toward new beginnings with appealingly human hesitancy: Even the elderly widowed artist who voices Lurie's most autumnal musings seems poised forrenewal in the good-natured finale. The dreadful Myra finally asserts her own political ambitions and temporarily ceases trying to manage everyone else's lives; and Jenny draws strength from her love for Lee to nourish her ongoing but evolving commitment to Wilkie. No great revelations, but a strong story from a sharp observer of the American social scene.
- Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.56(w) x 8.38(h) x 0.78(d)
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