Lunch at the Piccadilly
Clyde Edgerton (Adult Fiction)
Carl Turnage is watching his beloved Aunt Lil—the last leaf of his family tree—slowly slip through his fingers. Seeing that she is no longer safe living alone in her apartment and quite unreliable behind the wheel of her car, Carl sends her to a convalescent home to recuperate after suffering from a fall. There she joins several other residents including Flora Talbert (who owns four colored housecoats and has an obsession with footwear), Clara Cochran (has a glass eye and a penchant for spewing obscenities), Maudie Lowe (the little woman), Beatrice Satterwhite (owns the “Cadillac” of walkers), and L. Ray Flowers (who is quick with a sermon and always looking for a song). Despite the laidback atmosphere that Rosehaven Convalescence Center offers, Aunt Lil isn’t ready to take it easy just yet. She wants adventure and she is bound and determined to find it…one way or another.
Lunch at the Piccadilly clocks in at 238 pages (not counting the Epilogue). After reading ninety-three percent of the book, it inexplicably fell apart. It was absolutely agonizing to see this witty and charming book careen so horribly and fatally off course. The last few pages lacked what the entire book simply overflowed with: heart and soul. Edgerton’s novel was a poignant, funny (with a few laugh-out-loud moments), and compassionate book with characters dealing with loss of mobility, loss of independence, and loss of memory. He gives us several women with an insatiable zest for life, but know that the mortality clock is ticking louder and louder with each passing day. Why this same passion and fervor failed to carry through until the last page is both confusing and disappointing. However, the ending wasn’t the only problem. There was also a salacious backstory that kept resurfacing throughout various points of the story. This past event between two of Rosehaven’s residents really had no purpose, lent no value to the story, and only managed to introduce some unneeded drama and friction. Also, L. Ray’s need to break out into lengthy religions sermons broke the momentum of the story and was irritating at best.
It truly was heartbreaking and frustrating to see a book with this much promise and value self-destruct so quickly. I felt a little duped in the emotional commitment I invested in caring about these sassy, snarky, and spirited seniors who are making the best of what little life they have left. In the end, I felt as if this book was like one of Rosehaven’s residents who stands steadfastly by the front door, waiting for visiting family or friends that will never come. No matter how many times I might flip back in the book, looking tirelessly for my sense of closure, I realize that that too will never come.
*Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com
In honor of Halloween, we’ll be reviewing ghoulishly scary and spooky books throughout the month of October.
Ghost on Black Mountain
Ann Hite (Adult Fiction)
“Mama warned me against marrying Hobbs Pritchard. She saw my future in her tea leaves: death.”
Nellie Clay was only 17 when she married 25-year old Hobbs Pritchard. With just a feed sack of clothes, some trinkets, and a childhood full of memories, she leaves the only home she has ever known and moves to Black Mountain with a man she barely knows and the ghosts he has spent a lifetime creating.
Ghost on Black Mountain is a haunting tale of abuse, power, greed, and fervent love. There is not a soul on Black Mountain that hasn’t been negatively impacted or affected by Hobbs Pritchard, and his toxic anger and avarice blanket the mountain like mist on a crisp autumn morning. Hite does a credible job in conveying the torment and fear unleashed on a tightly-knit mountain community by a man consumed by evil and jealousy. The author keeps the story interesting by having different female characters narrate and share their own histories and perspectives. Near the end of the book, just when you thought you were safely out of the woods, Hite throws in an unexpected twist by introducing an unknown character. Rather than stall the story’s progression with this sudden interruption, this shift actually adds to the story’s mounting tension and brings us ever closer to an inevitable tipping point. As this character’s story is slowly unraveled, we become uncomfortably and painfully aware that the ghost on Black Mountain may never truly rest in peace.
Ghost on Black Mountain is Hite’s first novel and she gives readers a truly gripping and all-consuming story of good versus evil and the price one is willing to pay for redemption. Like the ghosts on Black Mountain, this story and its characters will linger in your mind and lurk in your memory long after the last page is turned.
* Book cover image attributed to http://www.amazon.com
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
Anton Disclafani (Adult Fiction)
It’s 1930 and America is in the midst of the Great Depression. The southern wealthy send their girls to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, an elite equestrienne boarding school located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. For 15-year old Thea Atwell however, her stay is more punishment than privilege—a repercussion of “the mess” that would impact the lives of those closest to her. With its established social hierarchy and strict moral culture, the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls forces Thea, for the first time in her life, to undertake girlhood friendships and deal with rival animosities.
To say this book was disappointing is an understatement. Just shy of 400 pages, it was a futile investment of my time and emotions. Thea is a girl incapable of making good life choices. Although we could easily attribute this to her age and being raised in near total social isolation, we still can’t overlook the fact that at nearly every moral and ethical juncture, she ignores her better instincts and chooses the path that leads to her own self-fulfillment and pleasure—regardless of the consequences. Very seldom does she bear any responsibility for her actions or show the slightest bit of remorse. Unfortunately, the adults in this book don’t fare any better, although the reasons behind some of their decisions (which seem excessive, cruel, or just simply foolish at the time) are explained toward the end of the book. By this time, it is much too late for the reader to scrounge up any vestige of interest or sympathy for these characters.
I’ve noticed this book appearing on several 2018 summer reading lists. Between an unrepentant main character and an unmercifully long story devoid of any moral lessons, this book is better left in the stable than taken to the beach.
*Book cover image attributed to www.goodreads.com