After her husband dies is a car accident, Libby Moran and her two children are devastated and are in financial trouble– forced to move in with her mother–a critical, self-absorbed person that Libby finds difficult to live with. When her estranged Aunt Jean offers the family a place to live on her small Texas farm, Libby is quick to accept the offer and to start a new life. Libby and her children must adapt to the challenges and joys of life on a farm and of meeting new people. The Lost Husband is a touching story of struggling to start over, accepting change, taking chances and of finding new joys and happiness. Filled with quirky, interesting characters and humorous dialog, this is an uplifting and satisfying tale of the journey of a family towards a new life.
Every village has it eccentrics. In Norbold, England, it’s Gabriel Ash, a grief-stricken loner, known locally as “Rambles with Dog” for his long solitary walks about the community. Gabriel is beaten by a gang of local thugs and is taken to a holding cell at the jail when he refuses treatment for his injuries. A cellmate, Jerome, whispers to Gabriel that he expects to die and gives Gabriel a coded message to pass on. Jerome’s last words were, “I had a dog once, Othello.” That night, Jerome is beaten to death in another cell by a drunken berserk prisoner. The police say that Jerome was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But Gabriel doesn’t believe it and teams up with Helen, a rookie cop, to prove it wasn’t an accident. Bannister departs from her Brodie Farrell mysteries in Deadly Virtues, a stand-alone thriller.
Friendship can appear when you least expected it–a new neighbor, a stranger on the bus, or, as in the case of Robot & Frank, a small robot to help your senility.
Frank, a professional cat burglar now retired, struggles with the realities of elderly life. When his children realizes that their father is beset with dementia, they decide to purchase a caretaker robot (yes, robot) to help him with daily life and, hopefully, slow his cognitive decline. While the robot is designed to help Frank with day-to-day life, Frank quickly realizes that he could also help him return to his former profession.
Frank immediately sets his sights on the local library, which is being renovated and turned into a community center. His goal? Stealing a valuable edition of Don Quixote to foil the plans of the developer in charge of the renovations and win the affections of a beautiful librarian. This, of course, does not go as planned, as his daughter begins to question the ethics of a helper robot and his relationship with the local librarian proves more complicated than Frank expected.
While the theme of dementia is generally not lighthearted, Robot & Frank manages to be an otherwise amusing and quirky film. Frank Langella, Susan Saradon, and the rest of the cast are fantastic in their emotionally difficult roles, and the dialogue is fast paced and amusing. But most importantly, by focusing on our ability to find companionship in the oddest of places, it affirms the connections and relationships that we develop throughout our lifetimes.
Patron Saint of Lost Dogs is veterinarian Nick Trout’s first novel–his other works of nonfiction (Tell Me Where it Hurts, Ever by My Side and Love is the Best Medicine) are popular glimpses into his life as a veterinarian. He tells the story of Cyrus Mills, a Charleston vet who is reluctantly called back to his hometown in Vermont and to the veterinary practice begun by his late father. Cyrus is a veterinary pathologist and is not looking forward to attempting to practice as a vet and deal with living animals and owners, but problems in Charleston have forced him to return to try to sell the practice. His first encounter is with a man who wants a healthy-looking dog euthanized, and Cyrus decides to keep the dog instead until he can investigate. The pet owners in town are a varied group, as are the pets Cyrus is asked to care for. Money is in short supply and the bank is planning on foreclosure of the practice. Added to the mix is a wise, older partner in the practice and a variety of quirky and amusing clients and their pets. This is a sweet story of forgiveness and family, with wonderfully drawn human and animal characters that will provide both laughter and tears.
Mary Newkirk, Adult Services Librarian
Manhattan Public Library offers a wealth of life-long learning opportunities, and Manhattan is replete with life-long learners. I have had the pleasure of becoming friends with many special life-long learners through the library’s Outreach Services.
As an Adult Services librarian, I have met wonderful people who have enjoyed reading into their nineties and up until their imminent death. Adult Services librarians deliver books to many of their residences when they find that they can no longer safely drive to the library. Many have moved into retirement or assisted living facilities where we continue to offer either homebound delivery right to their doors or a rotating collection of large print books that is located in their centers’ libraries.
Recently, I have experienced the passing of three wonderful homebound patrons. I miss my regular visits with them. In December I also lost my mother who spent the last two weeks of her life in the gracious care of our local Good Shepherd Hospice House staff. Freshly reminded that we are all touched by this end-of-life subject, I have compiled a short list of books and movies available at Manhattan Public Library which can help us deal with this sensitive issue.
Final gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying by Maggie Callanan. This book was available in each room at Manhattan’s Hospice House and was highly recommended. My sister and I appreciated the way the authors, both hospice nurses with many years of experience, walked the reader through the experiences of hospice patients and showed how we can help them live full lives till the very end.
The Last Pilgrimage: My Mother’s Life and Our Journey to Saying Goodbye by Linda Daly is a very new book first available this May. This is a story of a high-profile mother/daughter relationship as the mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and seeks a cure. Living a charmed life, the mother Nancy was married to a Warner Brothers’ executive and, after a divorce, married the mayor of Los Angeles. The author, daughter Linda Day (a former teacher) is very involved in philanthropic work. The two traveled around the country seeking treatment and after a last chance try with a visiting Brazilian healer, headed home in a rented rv and faced the end of life together.
Making Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa has been out for a couple of years, so if you missed it earlier, try this heartwarming story of a sweet nursing home cat that has the ability to seek out and comfort those who are very close to death.
Now a novel that stretches a bit to fit this topic but happens to be my newest personal favorite novel –Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler. I could not put this tragic love story down without continuing to dwell on the power of love and the tragedy of racial discrimination. In the South during the 1930′s, a wealthy white doctor’s daughter, Isabelle, falls in love with the handsome black son of their family maid. This story combines two time periods, as years later now eighty-nine year old Isabelle, asks her young black hairdresser, Dorrie, to drive her to a funeral 1000 miles from their homes. The two women share their troubled family stories with Isabelle’s secrets unfolding at the same time Dorrie’s teenage son calls with his own life-changing problems. Calling Me Home kept me mesmerized till the very end. I hope for more by this debut author.
Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg is another new fiction book that touches on this same topic of death. This time it is the loss of a best friend that sends a middle-aged motivational speaker seeking monumental changes in her own life. She puts her career aside, sells her home and furnishings and finds a group of women to share a home and a road trip. She spends time as a hospice volunteer and we sit through a training session on how to be a good listener to those who are terminally ill. This beautifully written novel is a sensitive and hopeful story of women supporting each other through life’s trials.
Entertaining movies with aging issues : How to Live Forever- Results May Vary, The Trip to Bountiful, On Golden Pond, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Autumn Spring, Cocoon and Lovely, Still.
In honor of their memory, I dedicate this column to Dr. George Wilcoxon, Jean Hansen and Norma Morrison and all the other wonderful patrons of the Homebound Program at Manhattan Public Library.