A humanistic project that delivers a good read, with plot twists and memorable characters.

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THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

Increasingly preoccupied by fears of dementia, an elderly man in a nursing home finds a new purpose and love in this novel.

Still in his 60s, Robert Glickman, a retired neurologist, resides at the Youth Fountain Senior Living Facility, called the Fountain of Youth by some. The decision was made for him, he says, but he’s also haunted by fears of Lewy body dementia, a “devastating and ugly” disease that runs in his family. As Glickman says repeatedly, “I have other plans when the time comes,” designs that have something to do with the locked box he stores in his closet and the key he wears around his neck. In the meantime, he keeps himself sharp by testing his brain every Sunday with 20 questions from his grandson’s sixth-grade quiz book (“Question 1: Earth is located in which galaxy?”), fretting when he gets any wrong and hiding the volume weekly to test whether he can find it again. Glickman gets along fairly well with the staff (especially the siblings Rufus, Ruth, and Hester, who share a tragic history that has left Hester with progressive mutism) and the other residents, all but two of whom are Jewish. One, O’Reilly, pretends to be Jewish by cursing in Yiddish and telling the ladies he’s circumcised. A persistent rumor has it that the other gentile, Boyle, is a Nazi in hiding; he has a greasy-looking teenage grandson, Stanley, who gets caught between the FBI and a drug cartel. Without intending to, Glickman finds himself becoming deeply involved with the life of the Fountain, even experiencing romance again with Christina Abernathy, a new resident and a retired psychotherapist who might be able to help Hester. Not paradoxically for Glickman, these relationships and the work he does on their behalf give him the strength to continue fighting for the right to die with dignity. Although this novel wears its heart on its sleeve, being dedicated to all those working for Glickman’s cause, Shear (The Trials of Adrian Wheeler, 2014) never allows the book to become didactic. Instead, his remarkable characters demonstrate the fullness with which life can be lived when you’re willing to get involved, as Glickman does not only with Fountain residents, but also with a vulnerable young woman named Lucy Diamond he runs across. (Early on, he notices that Lucy’s “sales ticket from Goodwill still dangled from her tattered jacket.”) In an entertaining episode, Glickman gets roped into reading The Great Gatsby aloud on Lower Level 2, the nursing floor, which he’s always avoided out of fear and disgust (the smells, the dying). Fitzgerald’s novel sparks a lot of interesting discussions among residents Glickman had tagged as moribund. At the end, most listeners clap, but not the sentimental ones, “disappointed that Gatsby could not hold onto the rays of green emanating across the sound.” Rays of green, like the youth they can’t hold onto at the Fountain? While never in denial about hard truths, and always claiming the right to make end-of-life decisions for oneself, this engrossing book also demonstrates the reality of hope.

A humanistic project that delivers a good read, with plot twists and memorable characters.

Pub Date: May 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5092-1389-4

Page Count: 298

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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