"Parrish weaves linked, darkly humorous tales of aging, death, love and alcoholism using the gothic tropes of Southern literary fiction."– Kirkus Reviews
Three women of different generations and backgrounds meet at a retirement home in award-winning author Parrish’s latest novel (By the Wayside, 2017, etc.).
Ninety-two-year-old Constance Maynard, a resident of the Lindell Retirement Home, is a former professor and early feminist who now finds herself diminished by old age and by her difficult relationship with the woman she raised as a daughter. Eunice, a small, wiry woman in her 50s, has worked at Lindell since she was a young woman, after she lost her inheritance on a fake real estate deal for the home’s site. Her unhappy, alcoholic parents did not model a good relationship for her, and consequently, she wasted years and money on men who cruelly used her. Sam, a good-hearted, caring woman in her 20s, sees herself as large and ungainly. Reared by cold maternal grandparents and a single mom who claimed to be the victim of a rape, she now finds solace in reading poetry. Ultimately, each woman finds some degree of peace in the present, although readers may find the outcome of elderly Constance’s story to be predictable. In three sections told from each woman’s point of view, readers learn about each of their lives and how they view one another, which adds depth to their individual stories. Although the book is billed as a feminist novel with “themes of reproductive rights,” these themes aren’t well-developed beyond their direct relevance to the plot; for example, Sam’s birth resulted from a teenage pregnancy, and the woman Constance brought up as her daughter was actually her half sister by a mentally unstable mother. That said, the book does effectively address themes of social and educational inequality, particularly when comparing the life of Constance, a history professor with a doctorate from Brown University, with those of uneducated Eunice and Sam.
An enjoyable, thought-provoking story but one that doesn’t fully explore its themes.
Parrish weaves linked, darkly humorous tales of aging, death, love and alcoholism using the gothic tropes of Southern literary fiction.
In the story “And To the Ones Left Behind,” a woman named Patty sets out on a mission to win her brother’s wife back for him. Patty believes she can find and deliver Lavinia by giving her a newfound sense of gratitude for the relationship. This misconception proves comical, however, as Patty faces her own vulnerabilities; she thought she knew her brother inside and out, but once she sees her brother’s shambling house and excessive drinking habits, she quickly realizes that Lavinia may have been right to leave. However, at the story’s heart, Patty recognizes the bond of siblinghood that overlooks such flaws in favor of the good. Other stories in the collection similarly offer glimpses of desolation, only to point out the light in the darkness. As Parrish cleverly links her stories, creating a rich world of haphazard relationships and beautiful messes, characters appear as heroes in some tales and struggle in others. Some stories feel more like portraits than plots, as she paints scenes and develops characters’ desires through summary and brush stroke rather than through actions or events, while bringing a sense of light to the ending of each story. However, the collection often relies on summary to cover too much ground; at times, readers may hunger for more intense moments of dialogue or close-up examinations of images and experiences. That said, this collection will speak to readers who are interested in its butterfly effect of family bonds and interactions.
A successful collage of linked stories set in a rich, dysfunctional world.