WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT? by William Van Wert


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 Van Wert (Stool Wives, p. 485, etc.) offers Hiram Walker, Florida trailer-park resident and engaging spokesman for the ``foreign country'' of old age: an everyman figure with a down-to- earth attitude living in the end zone. Seventy-nine-year-old Hiram, a former insurance salesman, retired to Florida with wife Rose. Rose, in Hiram's opinion, had begun dying with the move: She couldn't adjust to the heat, and by the time she really died, she'd pretty much given up on life. Not Hiram, though, who hasn't time to waste on grieving--there's too much to be done, including a final run for the park presidency against archrival Cyrus Applebee. This campaign gives a loose structure to what is more the life and wisdom of a man without pretensions. ``Fear and guilt are the worst trespassers on a life,'' he asserts. ``They're both counterproductive, they take up a lot of time, and they're antisocial.'' Hiram has a hand in various business enterprises that include providing the other residents with cheap prescriptions; he also organizes excursions to local sights, takes courses, and does a great deal of visiting. Meantime, as he describes his activities and offers his insights, he introduces the community to us: Widows, like Mary Smiley, who can't take care of their lawns but still dress up; unusual men like former bullfighter Caesar Medina, who reads a lot; Vance Petrale, who cultivates bonsai; Jake Marley, who fishes; and the women Hiram loves, sometimes chastely, like Charlene Dickerson, and sometimes not, like Mrs. Mylapore. The election is a shoo-in, and Hiram anticipates another busy year: When he dies, he says, he wants people to say, ``Just as well, he was all used up.'' Sometimes the humor is strained, but Van Wert's Hiram is more than a folksy wit and wisecracker: Here's a contemporary hero who fights back, refrains from self-pity, and always speaks his mind. A wonderfully fresh voice.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-81872-8
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996