A philosophical tale about two men in old age.

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THE THIRD HALF OF OUR LIVES

OR, TWO OLD GUYS NOT SELLING ANYTHING, WORD PAINTINGS ON AN ANTIQUARIAN CANVAS

Two men reflect on what went right and wrong during their long lives in this novel.

Widower Jerry, 85, has trouble meeting male friends in Macrobia, his California retirement community. It might have something to do with Macrobia’s population being 75 percent female. He meets Walter, 86, in the community’s philatelist club. Walter has a unique interest: He only collects stamps from nations that no longer exist. (Jerry opts for stamps from small countries in Europe and Asia.) The two begin a friendship based largely around conversation. Topics include the development of retirement communities, careers, hometowns, travel, and, inevitably, family. “They don’t write,” gripes Walter about his six kids, “don’t post mail; instead, once in a while, one of them tweets. Email is old fashioned, one of them told me.” Jerry’s own children include an estranged daughter that he abandoned to dodge the Korean War draft by fleeing to Canada; they haven’t seen each other in 60 years. Underlying every subject, sometimes explicitly and sometimes not, is the greater one: They are old men, at the end of their lives, awaiting a final epiphany. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? What, in the end, really matters? In this “Old Adult” novel, Foyt (Marcel Proust in Taos, 2013, etc.) writes from the perspective of Jerry, whose believable voice is equal parts wistfulness, remorse, and detachment: “I admitted to myself that I had always wanted to underline my thoughts. I mean, I had always admired Matilda and her skills in writing her columns. I did think my thoughts were valid. But for me to share them with strangers?” There isn’t much here in the way of plot. Indeed, the climactic moment is something of a deus ex machina, more befuddling than cathartic. Even so, the author has constructed an elegant—and at times compelling—Socratic dialogue on growing very old. These two men of the Silent Generation might not confront any of the really intriguing issues—from their white maleness to the sex lives of octogenarians—but they do hit the classics: parenthood, accomplishments, and the point of it all.

A philosophical tale about two men in old age.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 106

Publisher: Andrew Benzie Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

ALL ADULTS HERE

When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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