Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Jo Barney’s Henlit Titles: Her Last Words, The Runaway, Never Too Late

It is never too late to become what you might have been.

Her Last Words
The Runaway
Never too late


Every summer four old friends flock together at Madge’s seaside house to swap stories and sip wine. Throughout divorces, children, and new marriages, only the beach house and the sisterhood that comes with it, hold constant. This time, though, something is different

Madge, the writer friend who brought them all together, is acting strange. She asks them for a risky, unthinkable favor. And then one morning, she disappears.

In Madge’s absence, her friends discover the unfinished manuscript to what will be her final novel. It is the story of past forty years of their lives, a story that may reshape their futures.

"A story to make you stop, take a deep breath, and slowly wind your way into it. Uprush will make you think about what it means to be friends, what you would or wouldn't share with your friends and just how far you would be willing to go for them." - Goodreads, Lynxie

Ellie is in her sixties, gruff and independent. She doesn’t expect much from life; it’s broken enough promises to her. The only ugliness in the world Ellie can truly clean up is the graffiti marring mailboxes in her neighborhood, and she centers her days around this as one of the few acts that gives her a little peace.

When a fifteen-year-old goth girl appears offering to help, Ellie is surprised—and suspicious. Sarah has been shunted from house to house in the foster care system. Now she’s run away from a forest camp managed by a tyrannical, enigmatic man…. But escape is not that easy, and soon she finds her life in danger. And Ellie may be wrapped up in this more deeply than either imagined.

"I was really impressed with this story. A quick read that draws you into the lives of homeless children, their experiences on the streets and the search for family. Their quest to be part of something real. [...] The author did a wonderful work creating the plot in a world that was familiar to her. I do not want to spoil the book but I am a sucker for happy endings and this book's ending was the best conclusion for this book." - Goodreads, Lynelle Clark

Decades ago, a shotgun wedding locked Edith into a life with a husband she’s not sure she ever loved. Now, at a ‘certain age,’ she feels like a ghost in her own life, wondering where all this came from: the scornful husband, the mercenary brood of grandchildren, the well-meaning but controlling daughter-in-law. Then one Christmas morning Edith wakes to find her husband dead, and the role she played for so long crumbling. 

Soon questions arise about her husband’s death, and papers discovered in his pockets send Edith unraveling secrets of the man she thought she knew. Edith’s son Brian is the focus of her life, but he may not be as perfect as she thought. Revelations that he might be cheating shock her. As Edith investigates the mysteries of her family, she may just find who she truly is.

"All I can say is wow! This was an emotional roller-coaster ride. For me it was a story of guilt, giving up, disillusionment, unhappiness, and settling for second best or maybe even fifth or sixth best. But the real story beneath all the emotion, is it is never too late to begin again." - Goodreads, Birdlady

Edith Emerges, The beginnings of NEVER TOO LATE

It is never too late to become what you might have been.

I’m getting acquainted with the woman who has made an appearance on my computer. She’s a bit like me, only bitchier, at least at the beginning of the book. Not her fault. She’s been married to a bully of a husband for fifty years and for some reason, she’s hung in there. Not my problem, but I can identify. 

One morning she wakes up next to him and discovers that he’s dead. She closes his eyes and wonders, what now?

The what now? is, of course, the story, and a fourth of the way in, Edith hasn’t much of a clue. But her hair is now blonde, not gray, and she’s thinking about doing something about her chin. And she’s confused. Why did the coroner’s report list anti-depressants in the stomach of a man who wouldn’t swallow an aspirin? 

I have no idea how this story will end. That’s the best part of all. The writing adrenalin is spurting, fertilizing my dreams. I wake up and wonder why dead Art’s pockets contain receipts from local rib joints when he wouldn’t touch his food with his fingers, ever.

I love getting to know people I never knew existed and who don’t exist except in my imagination and on my computer screen. And in my midnight fantasies.

Spending a little time, over early morning coffee, I remember other good friends from other books, the school counselor in Wednesday Club, the hockey player in Mom, the college friends in Her Last Words, and the old lady and the street girl in Runaway. I have read about how I should promote them on the internet, how I should ask for reviews from others who expect the same sort of support from me. And tweet, often, send cheerful messages to my friends about the old ladies I’ve created and learned to love.

I am exhausted thinking about all that. I’m kind of an old lady myself.

I go back to Edith. Edith is learning to swear a little and to reflect for a moment on the black man with clipped gray hair she finds at her table at the rib joint. Who knows what’s next? I don’t. And I can hardly wait.

This is not a YA novel. This is an OA novel. It will appeal, first of all, to its author, and then maybe, to others for whom vampires, dystopia, avengers and rumpled sheets have little appeal. Well, maybe not the rumpled sheets. Edith is open to new experiences. 

I sink back into my office chair and become Edith, as she wonders if she’ll ever get together with the man in the rib joint. Of course, first she has to stop feeling guilty about her unlove of her dead husband. And maybe she has to learn to love herself a little more. A dog might help. A brown dog that smiles.

A sharp jab of a doubt awakens the brain cells dealing with reality. This is an Old Adult book in a world of Young Adults and those who wish they still were Young Adults. I ask myself is there a hope in hell that anyone at any age will be interested reading the story of a seventy-year old woman who lost herself fifty years earlier and then maybe finds herself?

Edith and I decide yes.
About the author:
After graduating from Willamette University, Jo spent the most of next thirty years teaching, counseling, mothering, wifing, and of course, writing.

Her writing first appeared in small literary magazines and professional publications. Since retirement, she has had time to write four novels and two screenplays.

Her stories and essays, as well as the novels, reflect her observations of women’s lives and the people who inhabit them: the children, husbands, parents, friends, and strangers who happen by and change everything.

No comments: