Life amounts to nothing.
That's the considered opinion of Carl Anderson, recently retired McGill professor of religion. Lonely, aimless, embittered by his children, unable to derive significance from his long career, irked by the “putter-putter” meaninglessness of existence at the seniors residence he has been shipped off to, and both cursed and blessed with an infallible memory, Carl is spooked by the inevitability of impending weakness, illness, and death. He is also haunted by childhood trauma, the source of which, imagined or real, is beyond his power to access.
Carl befriends Shelley Randell, bookworm extraordinaire. An orphan, she is Westmount Library's goth librarian. Shelley has been HIV-positive since birth. As she is also 56 years younger than Carl, it's only natural that they become friends.
Carl hires Shelley to accompany him to Liberal, Kansas, where they uncover Carl's childhood history. The adventure doesn't go smoothly, however. They commit two crimes, and the first symptoms of Shelley's life-threatening illness appear.
After returning to Montreal Shelley refuses treatment, driving Carl crazy. His attempts to keep her alive become increasingly extreme. They jeopardize his financial security, his son's wellbeing, and, eventually, his own life.
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About the Author
Joel Wapnick is a professor at McGill University, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in music education and related fields. The View North From Liberal Cemetery (2013) is his first novel.
Joel is an accomplished classical pianist and an expert Scrabble player, having won the World Championship, the Canadian Championship twice, and the North American Championship. He has written three books on the topic, the most recent of which is How to Play Scrabble Like a Champion (2010), published by Puzzlewright.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reviewed by Tracy A. Fischer for Readers' Favorite Delightful. Delightful. Delightful. I’m not sure how many more times I should write that word, but it’s the best one I can come up with to describe The View North from Liberal Cemetery by debut novelist Joel Wapnick. Following protagonist Carl Anderson through his journal entries, we meet a gentleman at a loose end. Newly retired from his position as a college professor of religion, he attempts to find meaning in his life in his new retirement community, even as he contemplates what he considers to be his impending death. Meeting the interesting Shelley Randell, a librarian 56 years his junior, seems to be just what he needs to enliven his life. He asks her to join him on a journey to find out more about his childhood. They find themselves on quite an adventure, committing two crimes along the way. When Shelley later refuses treatment for her chronic illness, Carl refuses to accept her decision and attempts measures that grow more and more extreme to try to save her, putting his own well being at risk. I loved this book. Loved it. I have to disclose, I work in a nursing facility, so many of the themes like difficulties with aging and accepting new roles in later years, contemplating mortality, and struggling to maintain one’s vitality are ones that I encounter on a daily basis, so this book held special appeal for me. But it’s so much more than that. The View North from Liberal Cemetery is funny, laugh out loud funny in many parts. It’s touching and heartwarming. It is simply a fantastic read. I would highly recommend The View North from Liberal Cemetery to any reader who loves great fiction and is looking for a book that will stay with them for a long time after they finish it. This was author Joel Wapnick’s first attempt at writing fiction, but I certainly hope it’s not his last.