by John Grayson Heide
Kindle Edition, 324 pg.
Read: December 14 – 17, 2016
Time and innocence don’t dance together for long.
Guy and Dorothy Pickering have known each other for sixty years and change — they might not have been the closest of friends as kids, but they were constant presences in each others’ lives. Eventually, they married and have spent the intervening years building their lives and family together. But time, cancer and dementia have taken their toll, and Dorothy doesn’t have much time left on earth.
Guy’s not willing to turn her care over strangers — or even their daughter — but he doesn’t know how to handle things. It’s not long before he finds himself asking his cat, “How the hell do you kill your wife?” Not knowing why he’d need to stick around without her, and begins coming up with plans that will kill them both. So the readers get to see the beginning of their relationship in flashbacks while Guy tries to design and execute the end of it.
Which was a great combination of heart-warming and tragic — making the odd dose of whimsy here and there seem out of place. Heide shows us the thoughts/commentary of the vehicles and animals Guy encounters. It was a choice that, while amusing, made no sense to me.
And then Guy’s grandson, a teenager rebelling against everyone in reaction to his parents’ divorce (and his age), comes to stay with them (not that anyone bothered to consult Guy about this). From almost the instant that Tory showed up, things start to change — the chip on his shoulder beings to get filled in, Guy gets to care for someone other than Dorothy, and things start to spiral out of control.
What is it about fiction set in Florida? I’m sure I’ve read a fairly straightforward book set in the state, but I can’t think of one. In my experience, at a certain point, plotlines in Florida become the fictional equivalent of reductio ad absurdum — between a nosy neighbor, an unsympathetic police officer, a petty airport manager, biker gang, shuttle launch, would-be star reporter, and some heavy-duty “medicinal” brownies (among many other things) — this sweetly tragic story is surrounded by laugh-inducing goofiness.
Yet but none of the extremes in tone ever take over — how Heide pulls this off, I’m not sure. I wish more people could. I’m not for a second going to say that I agree with Heide’s agenda — beyond wanting people to talk about end of life issues — but he told this story in a compelling, sympathetic and entertaining way. I spent the first few chapters just dreading finishing this — I liked these people, and didn’t relish seeing them go through the pain ahead (particularly as I got to know them better in the flashbacks). But I ended up really enjoying this book. Give this one a shot.
Disclaimer: I received this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinion, which did not influence anything I said, or even when I read the book. Sorry it took so long, Mr. Heide.