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Out of Warranty: A Novel
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Out of Warranty: A Novel

3.8 6
by Haywood Smith

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If you've ever struggled with a health insurance claim, you'll love Haywood Smith's witty send-up of the health insurance industry, the drug companies, the medical profession, and falling apart ten years before Medicare. From the beloved author of The Red Hat Club and Wife-in-Law, Out of Warranty is a witty story of two lonely misfits who find exactly


If you've ever struggled with a health insurance claim, you'll love Haywood Smith's witty send-up of the health insurance industry, the drug companies, the medical profession, and falling apart ten years before Medicare. From the beloved author of The Red Hat Club and Wife-in-Law, Out of Warranty is a witty story of two lonely misfits who find exactly what they need in the most unlikely of situations, with a bonus of humor and heart.

"If you have anything weird wrong with you in this country, you'd better be Canadian."

So says widowed Cassie Jones when, after being written off by countless doctors, she finally finds one who diagnoses her with a rare genetic form of arthritis. The condition is manageable, but not curable, and a new diagnosis, so her health insurance refuses to pay for most of her expensive medications and treatment. So widowed Cassie, still grieving for the love of her life and facing destitution because of her medical bills, decides she has to remarry for better health coverage. Enter one-legged hermit and curmudgeon Jack Wilson, on the same appointment schedule at their specialist's, who's rude and obnoxious, but eventually tries to help by setting up e-dating for Cassie. After a hilarious round of fix-ups and e-dating, Cassie's left with no hope and no prospects.

That's when Jack offers a strictly business marriage that could solve both their problems, with a serious set of house rules, including separate bedrooms. How well it will work remains to be seen.
With her trademark humor and sass, Haywood brings these two characters to life in an unlikely grown-up relationship that transcends their medical problems and will leave readers smiling long after the last page is turned.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her quirky new novel, Smith (Waking Up in Dixie) follows two ailing oddballs—one a widow, the other a recluse—as they struggle to overcome medical problems. Cassie Jones, who has been branded a hypochondriac, is relieved to learn that her multitude of symptoms can be traced to a mold allergy—unfortunately, she’s uninsured and is scrambling to find a new husband to take advantage of his coverage. While at the doctor’s, she becomes acquainted with cranky Jack Wilson, whose filthy farmhouse is packed to the rafters with “part trash, part treasure.” They begin a careful friendship based on their mutual poor health, which keeps them on “the same wretched diet” and medications. When it dawns on Jack that he has the insurance Cassie seeks, while she has a clean place for him to live, Jack proposes that they marry and live as platonic friends. But the promise of health might not be enough for the two to overcome what holds them back. Cassie and Jack are both over-the-top and occasionally irritating, but in Smith’s care, they become endearing and believably neurotic protagonists. Agent: Mel Berger, William Morris Endeavor. (Jan.)
From the Publisher

“Full of laughter and hope, Smith's newest story of strength and friendship is sure to please fans and new readers alike.” —Booklist on Out of Warranty

“A laugh-out-loud novel.” —Night Owl Reviews on Out of Warranty

“Whether this is a marriage made in hell or heaven depends on whether they can stick to the long list of rules and whether they can admit their growing fondness. In Smith's sure hands, this funny tale of unlovable misfits is a gentle, romantic surprise.” —Kirkus Reviews on Out of Warranty

“Smith . . . once again proves herself a devoted champion of middle-aged women who confront and overcome devastating domestic situations.” —Booklist on Wife-In-Law

“As usual, Smith deftly evokes strong women becoming stronger as they face heartbreak and loss.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch on Wife-in-Law

“Smith's zesty read-in-one-sitting romp promises to delight loyal fans and garner new ones.” —Booklist on Waking Up in Dixie

“Smith gives readers a lovely comedy with poise.” —Publishers Weekly on Ladies of the Lake

“Haywood Smith knows what the readers want, and doesn't hold back.” —A Romance Review on Ladies of the Lake

“Smith's fizzy exploration of enduring friendship and family signals more changes ahead for Georgia, her family and the red hat matrons. Fans of the series will enjoy and look forward to the next.” —Publishers Weekly on Wedding Belles

“An engaging ode to the lasting bonds of southern sisterhood and life-begins-at-50 optimism.” —Kirkus Reviews on The Red Hat Club Rides Again

“It's hard to keep good women down, as The Red Hat Club's bestseller status proves.” —Publishers Weekly on The Red Hat Club Rides Again

“A joyous, joyful ode.” —Booklist on The Red Hat Club

“A tribute to women who emerge victorious through divorce, menopause, spreading waistlines, and other tribulations.” —Chicago Tribune on The Red Hat Club

Kirkus Reviews
Can a middle-age woman with a chronic fungal condition find love, or at least decent medical coverage? She might find both in this unlikely winner from the best-selling Haywood Smith. Since the death of her devoted Tom a year ago, Cassie has been keeping up a brave front. But with years of undiagnosed health problems and a dwindling bank account, something has got to improve. She gives a new doctor a try and in the waiting room meets Jack, a sloppy curmudgeon who looks even worse than she does--he's missing a leg and has blue lips, a clear sign of COPD. Jack is rude, but no matter, Cassie's visit with this doctor is a revelation: Finally she has a diagnosis and a plan. She has a genetic deficiency leaving her with a severe allergy to fungus. A new diet and a glass house would be best, but the mold-remediation specialists guarantee her an improved environment when they're done emptying out her bank account. At her next appointment, Jack is there again, with the same diagnosis and the same directive. Only, as he doesn't have a hundred grand for a mold-free house, Cassie volunteers to help him clean. When she gets to his farmhouse outside of Atlanta, she thinks she's stepped into an episode of Hoarders. No wonder Jack is dying. As payment for her help, he begins setting up her online dating accounts. She's humiliated but reluctantly acknowledges she needs better medical insurance, so of course, a new husband. When dating doesn't work out--one handsome archaeologist literally had skeletons in his closet--Jack and Cassie hatch a plan. He moves into her expensively sanitized home, and she gets to marry him for his excellent benefits. Whether this is a marriage made in hell or heaven depends on whether they can stick to the long list of rules and whether they can admit their growing fondness. In Smith's sure hands, this funny tale of unlovable misfits is a gentle, romantic surprise.

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St. Martin's Press
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Read an Excerpt





A fresh stab of loneliness sharded through me as I looked into my ten-times magnifying makeup mirror-of-the-awful-truth, trying to erase the ravages of grief with concealer for yet another day.

Old. I looked old and haggard.

I closed my eyes. God, thank you for this day and my life, just as it is, I prayed as a sacrifice of obedience, wondering how long it would be till I could mean it. Help me, please. I can’t do this without you. That, I meant with all my heart. I know your love should fill the hole Tom left in my heart, but it doesn’t. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t. As always, I sensed God’s consoling arms about me, but it wasn’t enough.

Focus on today, I told myself as I did every morning, focus on gratitude, the blessings you have, not what you’ve lost, and you’ll get through this. Think of Haley and Tommy, and Paige and precious Ethan and little Catherine. And Mama.

And the house: it was paid for, even though the taxes were ridiculous. And I had what was left of Tom’s life insurance, and my widow’s health benefits, even though they cost a fortune and didn’t cover squat. Still, that was a lot more than some people had these days. And I had new knees and new hips and plates and screws that worked just fine. I needed to focus on that.

Instead, I focused on that honkin’ huge zit beside my nose in the mirror.

There’s just something so wrong about having zits and arthritis at the same time. I broke out the workout makeup, waterproof and thick enough to cover a doorknob, converting the zit to a mere lump that I hoped would be taken for a mole.

Thirty minutes later—dressed, made up, and coiffed—I braved the muggy July heat and left Juliette to do her business in the backyard while I went to the mailbox before heading to my appointment with the new ENT/allergist. In the mail I found a Chico’s flyer, catalogues from Vermont Country Store and Harriet Carter, my bank statement, a notice from the Fulton County tax assessor’s office, and an explanation of benefits from Green Shield Heath Insurance (or the antichrist, as I thought of them).

Always one to face the music without delay, I opened the bank statement first. Though I knew things had been a lot more expensive lately than I’d planned, I wasn’t prepared for the closing balance.

Shoot a monkey!

Half a million dollars of life insurance had seemed like a lot till I’d paid off all my medical bills, plus the refi and equity line we’d done in 2005, and the kids’ student loans. I’d also bought a dependable hybrid minivan to last me the rest of my life, which I now suspected would be cruelly long. (Mama was eighty-nine and strong as an ox, in much better shape physically and mentally than I was. It would be just my luck to inherit her longevity along with Daddy’s bad bones.)

I looked at the closing balance again and shook my head in mute denial. I was down to only two hundred thousand and facing more medical bills, plus property taxes out the wazoo, thanks to my location in what was now considered Buckhead.

Speaking of taxes, I switched to the letter from the assessor’s office, hoping they’d reduced the value of my house to reflect the depressed market. Then I opened it and discovered that they’d reassessed the house, all right: they’d upped it by fifty thousand!

Based on what? Nothing but foreclosures and short sales had sold in our neighborhood for almost a year!

Shoot, shoot, shoot! My blood pressure shot up, making my pulse pound like an anvil in the July heat.

I would have contested the increase, but I didn’t have the moxie, and Tom had always fought our battles for us.

Tucking the bank statement and reassessment under my arm, I wheezed as I walked back up the gentle slope of our short driveway. One more letter left to open.

I ripped the end off the explanation of benefits. For thirteen hundred dollars a month, plus a two-thousand annual deductible and out-of-pocket, my Green Shield PPO should at least cover sixty percent of the four thousand dollars plus I’d spent on tests and IV treatments at the holistic internist’s. Never mind that all I’d gotten for my money was some validation and a referral to the ENT/allergist I was seeing that day.

I unfolded the EOB, scanning from the doctor’s out-of-network fees to the zero fee adjustment, to the zero payout. Patient responsibility: $4,267.53.

What was with that? I’d already met my out-of-pocket for the year!

I looked at the code numbers beside the lab fees and treatment charges, then the key printed at the bottom. Disallowed: not standard medical practice. Disallowed: not standard medical practice. Disallowed. Disallowed. Disallowed. Followed by the fatal: nonnegotiable.

The antichrist had shafted me completely, not even applying any of it to my deductibles or payout ceiling!

I got so mad, I almost hyperventilated.

Criminal. The insurance company was criminal. And they knew I couldn’t go elsewhere for coverage. Nobody would have me. I’d spent well over fifteen thousand just on coverage in the year since Tom had died, and that didn’t even include dental or optometrist. And this was what all that money had bought me?

Afraid I might stroke out, I shepherded Juliette back into the blessed cool inside the house. I dumped the mail, then put her away in my bedroom.

Blasted crummy coverage, but what was I supposed to do? I couldn’t go uninsured, and it was 2012, so I didn’t dare opt for Obama’s high-risk pool because of all the court challenges.

“I’ll be back later,” I called to Juliette through the door. Not that she cared. She slept all day on her pink bed stuffed with cedar chips.

Some company.

On the way out, I grabbed my purse and keys from their hiding place in the bread drawer. I activated the security system alarm, then headed for Dr. Patel’s.

At least he was in network. The antichrist would have to pay at least seventy percent.

That’s what I thought, anyway, before I heard the dreaded “usual and customary treatment” loophole.

Fifteen minutes later, I drove up to yet another expensive parking lot entrance at yet another medical complex in Buckhead, so weak and depressed I could hardly sit up.

Rolling down the window to take my stub, I was smacked with a flood of heat and humidity that wilted me even further. Though I snatched the parking stub the nanosecond it appeared, the wretched machine scolded me with a loud, grating buzz anyway. Blasted machines. They’d leeched the humanity out of everything.

All the parking spaces within a thousand feet of the building were filled, and the lot sizzled in the sun.

I coughed heavily, rattling loose some of the “psychosomatic” gunk (according to the doctors at Emory, who had run a jillion tests, then referred me to a psychologist) in my lungs.

For some bizarre reason, the handicapped spaces were at the far side of the lot. Gasping, I pulled into one (with four joint replacements, you get a handicapped pass, and you need it), sicker than I’d ever been, and lonely to the bone.

Cursed Green Shield.

I got out of my car into the hazy heat, then trudged to the atrium lobby, arriving breathless and light-headed. The elevators—of course—were on the far side of the atrium. Whoever designed this place must never have been sick and alone.

When the elevator doors finally opened, I stepped inside and pressed three as a young mother with a stroller whipped in beside me.

I looked at the child in the stroller. “What a cutie.” I studied her big, black eyes and was rewarded with a deeply dimpled smile. “What floor?” I asked her mother.

“Five, please,” her mother said with a grateful nod.

“How old is she?” I guessed nine months.

“Nine months,” the mother said proudly, bending to stroke her daughter’s fuzzy halo.

Bingo. “I have a three-year-old grandson and a ten-month-old granddaughter.”

“That’s nice,” the mother said, clearly not interested.

Embarrassed by her dismissal, I realized I was officially one of those old ladies who bothered perfect strangers in the elevator. Shoot.

At the third floor, I waved to the baby as I got off, then headed for the main corridor. But a familiar bladder sensation caused me to back up and detour to the ladies’ room. After four bladder tacks, the last of which was failing, I agreed with George Burns: “Never pass up a chance to pee.” The rest of the quote was X-rated, but I agreed with most of it, too, except the sex part.

The last thing in the world on my mind was sex.

After finishing and washing my hands, I braved a series of hallways that seemed to be numbered at random, in search of my doctor’s office.

The Web site had provided directions to the address, but it should have given me a map of the maze inside. Hopelessly confused, I halted briefly, lost.

Maybe it was a sign that I shouldn’t go to this new guy. Save my money, go back to bed and not get up.

Then I started coughing again. Breathless by the time the spell ended, I steadied myself against the wall, seeing stars.

Maybe I should go to the doctor, after all, even though he might end up bleeding me for tests and start-up fees, pun intended. If somebody didn’t help me, I was going to croak, no two ways about it. For all I’d said I wanted to die since the funeral, when it came down to it, I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t leave my son and daughter orphaned, and I loved my grandchildren to distraction. And what good would the money I had left do me if I croaked from my “psychosomatic” condition?

I decided to take the chance on Dr. Patel. So I’d end up in the poorhouse a few days sooner. At least I would have tried.

I turned down yet another hallway and discovered I’d been going in a circle.


Then I spotted a sign pointing toward a snack bar and set out to get directions, mustering up the last of my energy to put on a happy face for the world one more time.


Copyright © 2013 by Haywood Smith

Meet the Author

HAYWOOD SMITH is The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Waking Up In Dixie, Ladies of the Lake, Wedding Belles, Red Hat Club, The Red Hat Club Rides Again, and The Queen Bee of Mimosa Branch.

Haywood Smith is the author of Queen Bee of Mimosa Branch, The Red Hat Club, and Red Hat Club Rides Again. She lives in Buford, Georgia.

Brief Biography

Buford, Georgia
Date of Birth:
April 21, 1949
Place of Birth:
Atlanta, Georgia
One year of college and several professional real estate degrees and appraisal certifications

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Out of Warranty 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
mysterybook_nerd98 More than 1 year ago
A timely book on the state of our health care. The author tackles this issue in a funny, entertaining way. The only problem I had with the book was one of the characters who had Alzheimer's was described as &quot;crazy&quot;. I didn't like that label. Other than that I enjoyed the book and liked the two main characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Another outstanding read for Mrs. Haywood Smith.
GranT More than 1 year ago
Another hit for Smith. Funny and entertaining. Cassie and Jack face problems we baby boomers face everyday so the story is very timely!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The dialogue was witty and fun, and sometimes unexpected. The plot was a gimme, but I enjoyed it anyway!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was dissapointed that the story didn't begin with the two main characters marrying sooner in the story. I thought the story would be more amusing than it was.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago