• Paperback: 336 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 12, 2018)
A whimsical, moving novel about a retirement home for literary legends who spar, conjure up new stories, and almost magically change the lives of the people around them.
Alfonse Carducci was a literary giant who lived his life to excess—lovers, alcohol, parties, and literary rivalries. But now he’s come to the Bar Harbor Home for the Elderly to spend the remainder of his days among kindred spirits: the publishing industry’s nearly gone but never forgotten greats. Only now, at the end of his life, does he comprehend the price of appeasing every desire, and the consequences of forsaking love to pursue greatness. For Alfonse has an unshakeable case of writer’s block that distresses him much more than his precarious health.
Set on the water in one of New England’s most beautiful locales, the Bar Harbor Home was established specifically for elderly writers needing a place to live out their golden years—or final days—in understated luxury and surrounded by congenial literary company. A faithful staff of nurses and orderlies surround the writers, and are drawn into their orbit, as they are forced to reckon with their own life stories. Among them are Cecibel Bringer, a young woman who knows first-hand the cost of chasing excess. A terrible accident destroyed her face and her sister in a split-second decision that Cecibel can never forgive, though she has tried to forget. Living quietly as an orderly, refusing to risk again the cost of love, Cecibel never anticipated the impact of meeting her favorite writer, Alfonse Carducci—or the effect he would have on her existence. In Cecibel, Alfonse finds a muse who returns him to the passion he thought he lost. As the words flow from him, weaving a tale taken up by the other residents of the Pen, Cecibel is reawakened to the idea of love and forgiveness.
As the edges between story and reality blur, a world within a world is created. It’s a place where the old are made young, the damaged are made whole, and anything is possible….
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About the author, Terri-Lynne DeFino
Terri-Lynne DeFino was born and raised in New Jersey, but escaped to the wilds of Connecticut, where she still lives with her husband and her cats. She spends most days in her loft, in her woodland cabin along the river, writing about people she’s never met. Other days, she can be found slaying monsters with her grandchildren. If you knock on her door, she’ll most likely be wearing a tiara. She’ll also invite you in and feed you, because you can take the Italian girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey Italian out of the girl.
Find out more about Terri at her website.
There was a film that came out several years ago, starring Maggie Smith and Billy Connolly: Quartet. It was about a retirement home for aging musicians, and it was fabulous, populated by quirky characters who all had music in common. (Rent it, I beg you; you won’t be sorry.)
Terri-Lynne DeFino’s novel The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) is the literary equivalent of that movie. It’s a funny, poignant novel full of quirky characters who have two things in common: they are writers, and they are aging.
While Alfonse is the highlighted character, and I enjoyed learning his story immensely, I have to admit, that Cecibel, the caregiver with the ruined face is one of the two characters who grabbed me even more (the other is Olivia, who use marijuana in the garden and whom we meet on the first page, but I confess that’s because we have a family friend who is an eccentric writer named Olivia.)
Cecibel’s arc is one that goes from caregiver to fan to friend, and watching her growth is fascinating, though honestly, the whole book is charming and engaging.
What I appreciated as much as the well-drawn characters was the author’s flair for specific description. “Mr Carducci’s suite of rooms smelled of pine cleaner and lemon wax, leather, and wood,” DeFino wrote, and I was instantly transported into his space. Description like that seems to be going out of style, but I love having a sense of place when I read.
This book is a great beach read, perfect as a summer choice for a book club. The characters are so richly and the story so good that even though the title makes it seem almost a gimick, the reality is that this is a very human look at the way we age as people and as artists.
Goes well with hot tea, fresh fruit, warm bread with butter, and a blank notebook with a smooth-writing pen.
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Review: The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses), by Terri-Lynne DeFino by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.