In this novel about love, loss, and the pitfalls of aging, a spirited elderly woman, forced to rely on others for her survival, unexpectedly influences those who come to her aid.
Tidy Bourbon is an irascible 92-year-old woman stubbornly clinging to independence in her home in Oakdale, California. Physically fragile and beginning to lose her memory at the end of her long life, Tidy forges a relationship of mutual reliance with her boarder, Ivan, a middle-aged Russian down on his luck. When Ivan’s drinking lands him in jail for an extended period, Tidy must look elsewhere for the help she so unwillingly needs. She manages to build a small cadre of equally reluctant protectors. One by one, Tidy wins them over—Claire, the social worker, still fragile and defensive after losing her young husband to cancer; Emily, the bank teller, always cheerful and patient with Tidy’s quirks; and Julian, Emily’s husband and a no-nonsense accountant who cannot believe he keeps coming back to abet such a disorganized and unpredictable client. Less helpful are the down-and-out neighborhood street people Tidy finds herself forced to turn to: Bernie, Blackie, Rap, and Miki, all of whom offer some support while stealing Tidy’s money, prescription drugs, and even her car. Olton (Always Another Horizon, 2007) constructs a persuasive and caring narrative that addresses the issues of old age without separating them from the trials that confront all humans who must try to remain open to love in the face of the reality of death and loss. Her characters are believably complex and depicted with empathy, even Miki, the Russian Ivan asks to look in on Tidy, who cannot resist the temptation to steal from her. If it seems a bit unrealistic that so many people are compelled to go above and beyond the call of duty to assist the protagonist, readers will likely forgive this flaw because Tidy and her friends have won them over too.
An intricate and moving examination of the challenges of aging anchored by a memorable heroine of indomitable pride and courage.