The Last Resort


Like a loyal Victorian wife, Jenny has devoted her life to her much older husband, the famous writer and naturalist Wilkie Walker, bringing up their children and researching and editing his bestselling books. But this year, as winter approaches, Wilkie is increasingly depressed and withdrawn. At her wit's end, Jenny persuades him to visit Key West, the Last Resort.

But Key West is not called the Last Resort for nothing. Lives can turn upside down here, and even short-term ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (48) from $1.99   
  • New (2) from $9.95   
  • Used (46) from $1.99   
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any coupons and promotions
Seller since 2005

Feedback rating:



New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New York, New York, U.S.A. 1999 Soft Cover New 8vo-over 7?"-9?" tall 0805061746.

Ships from: Philadelphia, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:


Condition: New

Ships from: Chicago, IL

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Sort by
The Last Resort: A Novel

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.99 price
(Save 26%)$14.99 List Price
This digital version does not exactly match the physical book displayed here.


Like a loyal Victorian wife, Jenny has devoted her life to her much older husband, the famous writer and naturalist Wilkie Walker, bringing up their children and researching and editing his bestselling books. But this year, as winter approaches, Wilkie is increasingly depressed and withdrawn. At her wit's end, Jenny persuades him to visit Key West, the Last Resort.

But Key West is not called the Last Resort for nothing. Lives can turn upside down here, and even short-term visitors can have experiences they never imagined. Within weeks of their arrival, Jenny not only has a part-time job but is becoming involved with assorted local characters, including Gerry, an ex-beatnik poet, and Lee, the dramatically attractive manager of a women-only guest house. Wilkie, meanwhile, is planning his own "accidental" death by drowning--a task that turns out to be more difficult than he thought--and trying to avoid the attentions of a breathless young female fan.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
"A perfect summer read: entertainment that is at once highly intelligent and mildly edifying."—Publishers Weekly

"[A] sparkling, smart new novel.... Time has not blunted the sharpness of her observational powers."—The New York Times Book Review

America's leading comic novelist and a Pulitzer Prize winner (for Foreign Affairs, 1985), Alison Lurie is back with her first novel in ten years and 1998's hottest summer read. The Last Resort is "beach reading with brains and bite" (Kirkus Reviews) and is electrifying readers and critics around the country.

The book's title is a pun about Key West, the last dot of the Florida Keys, and also the suicide that character Wilkie Walker, a famous writer and naturalist, is grimly planning. At the novel's start, Jenny Walker, Wilkie's ultradevoted wife — who's also 20 years his junior — is at her wit's end. When she isn't doting on Wilkie, she is researching or editing his bestselling books and raising their children. Jenny has been largely content with this life — until now.

As the cold New England winter approaches, Jenny knows she and Wilkie are in dire need of some sun. Hoping that a change of setting will instill new life into her languid companion, Jenny persuades Wilkie to rent a house in Key West for a short time. Literally and figuratively, it's their last resort.

Key West is not called the Last Resort for nothing. There lives can turn upside down, and even short-term visitors can have experiences they never imagined. Within weeks of their arrival, theWalkers'presence in Key West has caused quite a stir. Jenny not only has a part-time job but is becoming involved with an assortment of local characters, including Gerry, an ex-beatnik poet who proclaims his love to her; Lee, the owner of the B&B, whose attraction to her soon has Jenny tasting the delights of lesbian love; Jacko, their landlord, who is growing increasingly sick with AIDS; Barbie Mumpson, a drooling Wilkie fan and animal lover; and a score of others.

Meanwhile, Wilkie is planning his own "accidental" death by drowning — a task that turns out to be much more difficult than he thought. Jenny, mistaking Wilkie's urge to die for his disinterest in her, and thinking he is having an affair, turns to Lee for love.

Witty, intelligent, and filled with a rich cast of characters encountering and overcoming a multitude of social and emotional issues, The Last Resort is a perfect evocation of Key West, and another dazzling demonstration of Alison Lurie's talent for high comedy and social comment. As The New York Times Book Review reports, "Lurie writes touchingly, and rather beautifully, about the sorrows of old age, the loss of loved ones, the indignities of physical frailty, the fear of time running out and of the nearness of death."

Miami Herald
Highly entertaining. . .Lurie not only retains a firm grip on her well-mapped territory of not-quite-ordered middle-class lives, but also briskly grinds her fine comic talents.
Francine Prose
The novel and its readers...have great fun with what these people expect from their southward migration, and what they wind up getting.
The New York Times
New York Times Book Review
One of this country's most able and witty novelists. — The New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It's been much too long, 10 years, in fact since Lurie's last novel, and her new one, like her most successful previous outings, Foreign Affairs and The War Between the Tates, has a delightfully punning title. For the last resort, in this case, is that end-of-the-line city Key West, and it is also the suicide being grimly contemplated in the sunshine by celebrated naturalist Wilkie Walker.

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.

The Miami Herald
Highly entertaining. . .Lurie not only retains a firm grip on her well-mapped territory of not-quite-ordered middle-class lives, but also briskly grinds her fine comic talents.
Kirkus Reviews
Beach reading with brains and bite from Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist of manners Lurie (Foreign Affairs, 1984; Women and Ghosts, 1994, etc.).

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.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805061741
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/1/1999
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.38 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Alison Lurie

Alison Lurie is the author of many highly praised novels including The War Between the Tates, The Truth About Lorin Jones (Prix Femina Estranger, 1989), and Foreign Affairs (1985 Pulitzer Prize for fiction). She currently divides her time between Ithaca, Key West, and London.

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Ithaca, New York; London, England; Key West, Florida
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 3, 1926
    2. Place of Birth:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Education:
      A.B., Radcliffe College, 1947

Interviews & Essays

On Friday, July 31, welcomed Alison Lurie, author of THE LAST RESORT.

Moderator: Welcome, Alison Lurie! We're honored you could spend some time with us today to discuss THE LAST RESORT. How are you this evening?

Alison Lurie: Fantastic, considering that I just got off a plane from Miami an hour ago!

Claire from Sarasota: You say in your pre-interview that THE LAST RESORT grew out of some short stories that you wrote. Can you tell us more about this? Also, did any of your other novels evolve from stories?

Alison Lurie: I don't think I said that. THE LAST RESORT comes from things I have observed about the world over the past ten years and especially about what I have seen and thought about when I was in Key West. No, but my stories in WOMEN AND GHOSTS are based on ideas for novels that I was keeping in a folder called Ideas.

Ellen from Portland, OR: What made you decide to set this novel in Key West? Do you frequent there? Is it true that Key West is somewhat of a writer's colony?

Alison Lurie: Yes, I go to Key West every winter for a month or more in order to warm up from the place I live most of the time -- upstate New York -- which has a long, cold winter. I won't call Key West a writer's colony, because there are so many others that go there from other professions, but it is a place that has always attracted writers, beginning in the '20s with Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and the poets Wallace Stevens and Elizabeth Bishop.

Dean from Yarmouth, ME: Your first novel in ten years! I have missed a Lurie novel! What have you been up to since then?

Alison Lurie: I have published a collection of short stories called WOMEN AND GHOSTS, and I have edited THE OXFORD BOOK OF MODERN FAIRY TALES, and I have written many reviews and essays -- a lot of them on children's literature -- and I have taught school at Cornell.

Cynthia from New Rochelle: I see that you just published a book on the subversive powers of children's literature. Is children's literature an academic speciality of yours? Can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Alison Lurie: Yes. This is actually a reissue of a book I published in 1990. The thesis is that the books children love most are subversive; by that I mean that they don't necessarily support adult rules and interests. For example, ALICE IN WONDERLAND has a heroine that doesn't behave like a nice little Victorian girl. She doesn't sit quietly; instead she jumps up and follows a rabbit down his hole. The children in THE CAT AND THE HAT are visited by an animal who wrecks the house. The children ask themselves, Should they tell their mother what went on that day? And it ends up with the line, "Well, what would you do if your mother asked you?" The implication is if you can get away with wrecking the house, why not? And this book is tremendously popular with children.

Brook from Chicago: What is the significance of the book's title?

Alison Lurie: It is kind of pun. Key West is known locally as this because it is the last in the chain of the Florida Keys. But it is also as a character says in the book "It is the place where you go when other places haven't worked out for you." It is a place that I think is very freeing because it is very tolerant of different kinds of people, different interests, and different lifestyles.

Pam from Briarcliff: Congratulations on your new novel! I am loving it! Just wondering, what inspired the character of Wilkie and his suicidal tendencies?

Alison Lurie: I know a number of people, many of them college professors, who recently retired, and I think retirement can be very difficult for men, especially if they have few interests outside their work. Wilkie is an environmentalist, [dedicated] for, let us say, 50 years to trying to save endangered species, and he feels that in many cases, he has failed. I know people like this, people who have high ideals, who have tried to do something for the world and are discouraged when they realize their career is over and they haven't accomplished what they hoped to do. And perhaps the higher, the more altruistic their ambitions, the harder this is.

Mary from Pennsylvania: You described Wilkie and his state of mind very well. Did you need to do research on depression for this book?

Alison Lurie: I think that it is hard to get to my age and teach college and not to have run in to depression somewhere, even if you don't have it yourself -- as I don't.

Sara from Petersburg: Your dialogue is so quick and witty. Do you find dialogue to be the easiest to write, or does the challenge of it attract you?

Alison Lurie: I enjoy writing dialogue, and if I have a good idea, a good sense of who my characters are, I can hear them speaking.

Craig from London: Your writing is so funny, and you are generally recognized as a comic novelist. Is this what you set out to be? In your opinion, why is it that people find your work funny?

Alison Lurie: Heaven knows! I didn't set out to be a comic novelist, but I think my take on the world is nearer to comic than tragic. I have no idea why people find my work funny. Humor is a strange thing anyway.

Dale from Williamsburg: You are hailed as a comic novelist. Do you see some common threads to what makes novels funny? Are there some foolproof techniques you apply again and again?

Alison Lurie: No, I think that most people that write comedy have a unique voice, that the comedy of one writer is not like that of the other. People are funny in different ways. I couldn't be funny like Dave Barry is. No techniques -- I don't know how you do it!

Peter from San Francisco: Do you write your novels with a particular audience in mind? If so, does this help you shape the humor?

Alison Lurie: I probably have in mind an audience of all my friends and people who have written to me to say that they have enjoyed my books.

Berry from Williamsburg: The character of Jenny in the beginning of THE LAST RESORT is an antifeminist of sorts, totally subservient to Wilkie and his career. But then she begins dabbling in lesbianism in Key West. What can you tell us about the evolution of this character as you created her?

Alison Lurie: I believe that women have a right not to have a career and to work with their husbands. Jenny has suffered from feminism just the way women in an earlier generation suffered from not being able to have a separate career, for instance in the '50s. I think women should have both options. I also think that men should have both options. If a man wants to stay home and be with the children while his wife has an important career, he should be able to do this without any criticism or embarrassment. We now have some poor guys saying, "I am just a househusband." Just as women said, "I am just a housewife." I think it is a shame in both cases.

Pam from Cambridge: Have you ever written from the first-person perspective, or does this inhibit dialogue?

Alison Lurie: I have done it twice, once in a novel called IMAGINARY FRIENDS and once in REAL PEOPLE, and several of the stories in WOMEN AND GHOSTS are told in the first person.No, it doesn't make dialogue more difficult. You have to suspend your disbelief that this narrator remembers what was said. But this is a convention, like the convention in the novelistic dialogue that no one says "ah" or "um" -- or at least they say it much less often than in real life.

Robert from Stonybrook: How has winning a Pulitzer Prize affected your life? Do you feel other writers or critics take your work more seriously?

Alison Lurie: I believe that winning a prize, though it doesn't change one word of a book, does impress many people. The advantage is that it does bring you more readers. The disadvantage is that it tends to make people take the prize-winning book much more seriously than the other books you have written.

Monica from Richmond, VA: I loved your book! There are so many funny and interesting characters -- each so distinct that they could almost be the subject of a short story. Did you have a favorite among them? Do they resemble people that you know?

Alison Lurie: I don't have a favorite. I like them all, and I hope to God that none of them resemble anyone I know. I try hard not to write about any of my friends or acquaintances.

Linda from Martha's Vineyard: I see that you teach at Cornell. Do you believe that a master's in fine arts is a worthy pursuit for an aspiring writer, or do you think it is best to just start writing and see if you can get published?

Alison Lurie: I think that if you have the time and can get into a good MFA program, it is a wonderful chance to see what you can do unencumbered by a 9-to-5 job. It is also a chance to meet other writers and exchange manuscripts, read each others' works, and get a sense of what people in your generation are doing and writing about.

Brian from New York: How did you get your first book published? How young were you?

Alison Lurie: My first book was not published until I was 34, and after ten years I was unable to publish a novel. It was published because an editor had seen a shorter piece that I had written and wrote to me and asked if I had a novel. I did!

Linda from Philadelphia, PA: Do you have a favorite among your novels? Any character that is especially endearing to you? Thanks for all the wonderful fiction. It has provided me hours of entertainment!

Alison Lurie: Thank you! I love them all equally. To be asked that is like being asked which of your children you like best.

Lynn from Pikes Peak: Do you think THE LAST RESORT could have been a novel you wrote 20 years ago, or did its subject matter require you to be a more mature writer?

Alison Lurie: I don't think I could have written this book 20 years ago, because I wasn't as aware of the issues that are involved.

Pete from Atlanta: Do you feel that your writing has changed or evolved in any manner over the years?

Alison Lurie: I think that over the years the things that I write about have changed. I don't think my own style has change a great deal. Perhaps it has become more serious.

Fran from Rhode Island: Do you have another in the works? If so, what is it about?

Alison Lurie: I don't, and if I did I wouldn't tell, because I believe to talk too much about a work in progress is destructive to it.

Tracey from Ft. Myers: Have the film rights for any of your books been acquired?

Alison Lurie: Three of my books have been made into television films THE WAR BETWEEN THE TATES, IMAGINARY FRIENDS, and FOREIGN AFFAIRS. None have been made into real films.

Amanda B. from Great Falls: What is this book trying to say about Key West? Is it a microcosm of something larger? Is there a larger lesson here?

Alison Lurie: I think that there are several larger lessons, but not about what Key West is, except that Key West is a place that is tolerant of difference and eccentricity. It is a place where people can change. I have always said, if you can encapsulate the lesson of a novel in a sentence or two, you might as well rent a billboard and write this lesson on it!

Scott from New Canaan: Whom would you consider some of your greatest literary influences?

Alison Lurie: Jane Austen, Dickens, E. Nesbit, and Christopher Isherwood.

Moderator: Thank you for your thoughtful answers to our probing questions, Alison Lurie. We wish you a wonderful weekend and continued success with THE LAST RESORT.

Alison Lurie: Thank you very much for joining us!

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)