Among the delights here are the smart dialogue, the pointed satire of the nursing home industry and, most of all, the chorus of idiosyncratic, opinionated characters who've got more life left in them than anyone quite expects.
Lil's goings-on may be hilarious, such as when she inadvertently steals a car and takes the other ladies out for a spin to buy candy, but that hilarity only partly obscures the recognition that we'll all end up like Lil someday -- if we're lucky. Edgerton's is one of the most graceful and humane studies of old age we could hope to find.
Edgerton writes with warmth about the plight of the elderly in his latest, an ensemble portrait that tracks the ups and downs of a group of nursing home residents at the Rosehaven Convalescent Center. The central figure is contractor Carl Turnage, who devotes most of his time to caring for his dotty, eccentric aunt, Lil Olive, after a fall puts her in convalescent care. The friendly, rambunctious Lil quickly strikes up several friendships at the home, organizing a series of cute but ill-advised adventures as the various patients battle to keep their driving rights and other privileges. Turnage, meanwhile, becomes involved in an adventure of his own with another resident, a flamboyant preacher-cum-musician named L. Ray Flowers who talks him into playing bass in a duo after he sets some of Turnage's lyrics to music. Edgerton hits the mark with his quirky characterizations, and his sympathy for his subjects is evident as they struggle to retain their dignity through their twilight years. Much of the humor is stuffy and outdated, and the comic material involving elderly driving is off-key. But Edgerton compensates with a strong finish: Lil is suddenly hospitalized, and Turnage is forced to come to terms with her mortality, even as a lurid incident involving Flowers's flagrant behavior with the female residents forces another crisis on him. This underplotted novel isn't one of Edgerton's best efforts, but it remains a solid, touching treatment of a neglected subject. 25-city author tour. (Sept. 19) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Carl's mother has passed on, and his favorite aunt, who never had any children of her own, has landed in the Rosehaven Convalescence Center, where he visits her regularly. The poignancy of old people giving up their apartments and their independence is mingled with the hilarity of the goings-on at Rosehaven once elderly preacher L. Ray Flowers tries to organize the ladies there into a "movement." Carl's kindness to all the residents and his awkward attempts at romance with social worker Anna reveal his gentle humanity. Despite their failing eyesight and lack of mobility, Aunt Lil and her buddies manage to (mistakenly) steal a car for a final, disastrous shopping spree. The novel blends humor and sadness to a remarkable degree. Edgerton, the author of such fine books as Raney and Walking Across Egypt, is a treasure.-Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
For sheer likability it'd be hard to beat Edgerton's affectionate portraits of small-town oddballs in the South. His eighth outing is a breezy comedy, tinged with sadness. Carl Turnage is a mild-mannered, thoroughly decent guy, but not a commanding presence in his North Carolina town; if only he were a little taller, his voice a little deeper. A middle-aged bachelor, he was raised by his mother and her two sisters; the sole survivor is his aunt Lil, now at Rosehaven nursing home and shrinking fast, though still an occasional driver, and that's a problem. Carl (he and Aunt Lil are real close) is bracing himself to tell her she must stop, just as we brace for more old-folks-behind-the-wheel jokes; but they still have some real zip in this go-round, shot through by the old folks' somber awareness that their final spin may be the beginning of the end. The other principal here is L. Ray Flowers, a flamboyant if loopy former evangelist whose sermons might begin with your feet ("Don't be afraid to buy expensive shoes"). He went through a bad patch when a woman he was "healing" fell off the stage and killed herself, and now he has a cockamamie scheme to combine churches and nursing-homes, but so what? He gets Carl back to writing country songs (their gig together is Carl's dream come true), and he sure perks up all the old ladies; the exception is Darla Avery, who remembers their nightmare date 40 years ago, when L. Ray masturbated in the car after the eighth-grade dance. This is all the ammunition Rosehaven's hard-nosed owner needs to have L. Ray, an obvious troublemaker, evicted. Meanwhile, Aunt Lil has started "sundowning" ("They get confused after the sun goes down," explains the nurse).There can be no happy ending here, but even a stroke and a death are handled with a light touch. Underplotted, but with the fast pace, you scarcely notice: another small gem from Edgerton (Where Trouble Sleeps, 1997, etc.). Author tour
“Graceful and often painfully funny . . . Among the delights here are the smart dialogue, the pointed satire . .. and most of all, the chorus of idiosyncratic, opinionated characters.”
–The New York Times Book Review
“A DECEPTIVELY SIMPLE TALE THAT BRIMS WITH COMPASSION AND WISDOM, weaving laugh-out-loud set pieces with infinitely tender observations about the human condition. . . . Once again, Edgerton has crafted a little treasure of a novel–funny, wistful, packed with truth and humanity.”
“[A] Southern tale-spinning master . . . The bonus of the novel is its vintage sense of humor–trademark Edgerton–strewn throughout the story.”
–Rocky Mountain News
“[Edgerton’s] characters’ love of life shines in the joy of their talk, which makes even their sorrows glow with art.”
–The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
“A vivid and affecting portrait of the way many of us struggle– and, when possible, take comfort–in the real world.”
“A zany tale about old folks and those who love them . . . Honor and respect abide in this gentle tale of the twilight time.”