SIMON'S NIGHT by Jon Hassler


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A high-minded, low-octane pep-talk about How To Be Reborn At Age 76, by the author of the livelier Staggerford (1977). Simon Shea, a much-lauded university professor, now retired, has left his comfortable cabin in rural Minnesota to check into the old-folks' Norman Home, which specializes in TV and peaches-with-milk--all under the sway of a bullying matron. Simon is hardly happy with his lumpish fellow-residents, but he fears a helpless senility, in spite of the scornful pooh-poohing of pretty Dr. Jean Kirk and her live-in friend, a life-battered but stalwart Vier vet. In flashbacks, Simon remembers a brief love affair in Ireland and examines his marriage and separation from wife Ruth, whom he has not seen in 33 years (the marriage was never dissolved--he's a believing Catholic). And soon enough Ruth appears, now 60, on her own quest for better sunset years, primed by Dr. Kirk and friend to urge Simon out of the Home. Will Simon join her? Of course. But first he feels bound to rouse the Home inmates to follow their dreams--one of which involves burying a friend's amputated foot in consecrated ground; and it's here that Hassler hits the comic highs of Staggerford, with pixilated ladies, a flustered priest, and some energetic bumbling. But alas for the reader, sobriety sets in again pronto, as Ruth and Simon, reunited and cabinbound, look forward to the best that's yet to be. With most characters expediently constructed to move the Message, this is too sweetly pat by half, and it's difficult to discern life behind the chat or the talky ruminations. Good intentions only.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1979
Publisher: Atheneum