A whimsical, moving novel about a retirement home for literary legends who spar, conjure up new stories, and almost magically change the lives of the people around them.
Alfonse Carducci was a literary giant who lived his life to excess—lovers, alcohol, parties, and literary rivalries. But now he's come to the Bar Harbor Home for the Elderly to spend the remainder of his days among kindred spirits: the publishing industry's nearly gone but never forgotten greats. Only now, at the end of his life, does he comprehend the price of appeasing every desire, and the consequences of forsaking love to pursue greatness. For Alfonse has an unshakeable case of writer's block that distresses him much more than his precarious health.
Set on the water in one of New England's most beautiful locales, the Bar Harbor Home was established specifically for elderly writers needing a place to live out their golden years—or final days—in understated luxury and surrounded by congenial literary company. A faithful staff of nurses and orderlies surround the writers, and are drawn into their orbit, as they are forced to reckon with their own life stories. Among them are Cecibel Bringer, a young woman who knows first-hand the cost of chasing excess. A terrible accident destroyed her face and her sister in a split-second decision that Cecibel can never forgive, though she has tried to forget. Living quietly as an orderly, refusing to risk again the cost of love, Cecibel never anticipated the impact of meeting her favorite writer, Alfonse Carducci—or the effect he would have on her existence. In Cecibel, Alfonse finds a muse who returns him to the passion he thought he lost. As the words flow from him, weaving a tale taken up by the other residents of the Pen, Cecibel is reawakened to the idea of love and forgiveness.
As the edges between story and reality blur, a world within a world is created. It’s a place where the old are made young, the damaged are made whole, and anything is possible….
|Product dimensions:||5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.76(d)|
About the Author
Terri-Lynne DeFino was born and raised in New Jersey, but escaped to the wilds of Connecticut, where she still lives with her husband and her cats. She spends most days in her loft, in her woodland cabin along the river, writing about people she’s never met. Other days, she can be found slaying monsters with her grandchildren. If you knock on her door, she’ll most likely be wearing a tiara. She’ll also invite you in and feed you, because you can take the Italian girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey Italian out of the girl.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Stories within stories, what one might expect from a collection of authors from the days of Parker and Salinger, all now spending their last days at The Pen, a grand house reclaimed and repurposed by a former agent, known to them all: providing a safe place for all who enter. From residents to live-in staff, each of the characters we meet in this story finds purpose, hope and even insights during their stay. What emerges are several ‘key’ stories for each person we meet: from Olivia’s abusive marriage and her subsequent outrageous, if not wholly confrontational behavior, Switch, the observer, confident in quiet, steady and solid. Judith, the editor in the early stages of dementia, known for her ability to serve the story only, not the author egos. Alphonse, the last to arrive and the one around whom the story seems to rotate – his body failing even as his itch to write is awakening, spurred on by Cecibel. An orderly at The Pen since she was released after a massive car accident that left her scarred. When Alfonse, spurred on by his own memories, the thought of the admiration from Cecibel, and her hopes that he will sign one of his books for her, he finds a story, one that had no end or plan, but a story nonetheless. Olivia, being herself and unable /unwilling to allow Alfonse to retreat from her spots the story – and the plan is hatched. She and he will each write in alternating chapters, telling a story, perhaps their last story – that only Cecibel (in a series of faux-secrets) shall read. No planning, no discussion, no rewrites. Soon, the story becomes the focal point, as Olivia and Alphonse have a project, noticeable to both Switch and Judith. Soon the story becomes a ‘known secret’ between the four: a story set when they were young and hopeful, a romance with teeth and truth, the only audience to be Cecibel. I’m not entirely sure what I expected from this book, and I think that even as it progressed, my expectations changed to wish for stories from all the characters, major and minor. Histories and backstories, fears and challenges, growth and acceptance of the end are all highlighted and bring readers in- the sly humor, the reveling in days past, even the gradual awakening for Cecibel that allows the hope of romance into her life, after years of hiding away and isolating herself. Not a fast paced story, the book within the book brings insight and a diversion as these once literary greats now write with a freedom that perhaps they never before experienced. It’s not about the process or even the end product here- it is a story that shows possibilities and open doors, even as it is draped in the finality of death and loss. Engaging, engrossing and quietly all-encompassing, this is a story to experience and enjoy. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
I’m a sucker for stories about writers. The Bar Harbor Retirement Home is home to a group of retired writers and what a group they are! Some have had relationships with one another, others have collaborated with each other, and some are still collaborating as they live out their final days. What makes this story entertaining is that there is a story within a story as Alfonse Carducci, writes what could be his final story, and this new work of his is inspired by his caregiver, Cecibel. Cecibel, although much younger than Alfonse cannot help but be smitten with him. As a fan, she finds his work thrilling. There is just something about his charm and wit that hold her captive. Usually, I am not a fan of the “story within a story” device but in this case, I didn’t mind it. Carducci writes what is essentially a love story and again, not something I’d typically enjoy but I did find myself wanting to know how that story would end. The ending didn’t go the way I expected it to but all in all, it was an enjoyable read.
4.5 stars The refurbished mansion is now home to individuals who once had their hands in publishing. From writers to editors, the rooms are now filled with individuals who have gathered together to finish out their remaining years. Working as an orderly, Cecibel enjoys hiding amongst the famous wards, for they don’t ask many personal questions and she’s able to go about her work, unnoticed. Alfonse will be arriving soon to fill a vacancy and his arrival is causing quite a stir, especially with Cecibel. Alfonse is Cecibel’s idol and she took great care in getting his room ready. This novel was such a joy to read. I laughed as Olivia took her medicine out in the yard. As she lit her joints and she smoked her marijuana (medicine), her pains went away and she moved more graciously. Sometimes, she even commented on how stoned she was. The residents sometimes talked about literature when they got together. They all knew that each one of them had their own special talent and had a success. At this point in their life, they all valued one another and they had a special bond with each other. When Alfonse arrives, Cecibel is thrilled and Alfonse basks in the attention and the admiration that she places on him. Cecibel changes too and by the end of the novel, she’s a different person. With Alfonse on the premises, this once retired group suddenly becomes passionate again about their gifts and a few of them feel that they need to pick up their pens and work. An entertaining and incredible journey develops and it was heartwarming to be a fly on the wall and watch it evolve. We’re taken back in history to see how things developed and we see some romances cropped up along the way, but there was nothing that took over the whole novel. Wouldn’t that be wonderful if a place like Bar Harbor Retirement Home actually existed? To think that these talented individuals could come together and reminisce about their glory days. Then, to think what would happen if they decided to take up the pen together and write? What would transpire? What about a mixing of genre writers? This makes me smile. I won a copy of this book from Harper Collins in their August Grab Bag Sweepstakes. Thank you, Harper Collins. This review is my own personal opinion.