Having lost his job, his wife, and nearly all of his eyesight, a former Merrill Lynch stockbroker braves a strange but compelling new existence in northern Vermont among hippies, drug dealers, evangelicals, and struggling farmers.
We are in the Vietnam era. Much of the time, the aged Press lives a life of "banal loneliness" in a small farm cabin, listening to Bach and Mozart on a Montreal radio station—sounds inseparable from "the creak of his swing on the porch, barn swallows harvesting bugs overhead, a teacher bird, and a wood thrush's liquid fluting." As much out of curiosity or boredom as compassion, the locals take an interest in him—especially Carol, an artist who lives on a nearby commune. She becomes his driver, social guide, caretaker, tease, and unexpected sex partner. In her company, he finds himself pushing past perceived limitations and brushing off his ex-wife's recommendation that he move into a nursing home. Never mind the dealers who are secretly storing marijuana in his shed. Long on surprises, his new life proves as richly revealing as it is unsettling. A treasure on multiple levels, the novel leads us into its protagonist's sensory world with such ease, intimacy, and humor the 83-year-old Hoagland—who is going blind himself—seems to be in our thoughts as much as we are in his. Taking leave of Press is no easy task.
The incomparable Hoagland's 25th book is not only one of the most rewarding novels of the year, it's also one of the sexiest.