Reviewer Lois C. Henderson: Lois is a freelance academic editor and back-of-book indexer, who spends most of her free time compiling word search puzzles for tourism and educative purposes. Her puzzles are available HERE and HERE Her Twitter account (@LoisCHenderson) mainly focusses on the toponymy of British place names. Please feel welcome to contact her with any feedback at LoisCourtenayHenderson@gmail.com.
Author: Kate SebenyPublisher: Kellan Publishing
If you enjoy your characters described in second person, rather than self-revealing, through their own words and deeds, then The Last Best Thing: A Novella might appear, at first glance, to be just the book for you. From the very first page, the reader is introduced to the positives and negatives of the novella’s protagonists by their nearest kith and kin. Largely, however, the negatives are the focus of attention. Firstly, the male head of the household (who is now anything but, having been invalided by chronic heart failure, so that, as he himself describes it, “I’m a lousy helpmate”) is not only down on himself, but even his wife cannot be allowed to appear as a worthwhile individual without him backhanding her in the very next sentence. “She’s a saint. Providing a candidate for sainthood can’t be disqualified for smoking like a chimney, drinking like a fish, cursing like a sailor and screwing like a floozy, that is.”
The daughter then shows how totally lacking in empathy she is when, in refusing to upend her life in Denver to help her mother tend her sick father, she describes the latter in the following banal, trite and unfeeling way: “The Alzheimer’s kept him existing long past the time he’d ceased living.” She then goes on to ask her mother: “Why do you want to hang on to Dad like this, Mom? He’s long gone.” This, despite clear indications that he is far from being totally senile and defunct.
Do not, however, let first appearances fool you. From this rather emotionally brutal beginning starts an extremely positive tale of how a group of lifelong friends gets together to form a private retirement community. (“What started out fifty years ago as an annual party evolved into a yearly reunion and then a way of life.”) Blended in with the lively description of all the idiosyncrasies of a range of characters as they experience the final phase of their late adult years, enters the element of mystery and preternatural death. In delving to the depths of an unfolding mystery in their midst, Sebeny highlights the strength and humor that are essential to maintaining a favorable quality of life in what, physically at least, are destined to be one’s declining years.
This novella should appeal to those who wish to gain insight into the world of the elderly and the infirm, and the various attitudes that others have towards them, as well as to those readers who are entering, or immersed in, their later years. The author’s native Iowa background forms a fitting setting for this insightful and, at time