The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses), by Terri-Lynne DeFino

Having read fantasy and romance from DeFino, I wondered how a straight up fiction novel of hers would be. I know that DeFino dislikes being pigeon holed into genres since she sees so many books falling into more than one. Which is exactly the case with The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers. In fact, her straight up fiction book has both romance and fantasy neatly inserted within its pages.

Set in, yes, (you guessed it), Bar Harbor at, yes, (you’re right again), a retirement home for aging writers, DeFino quickly introduces a cast of diverse and thoroughly developed characters. Of the writers, there is Alfonse, a sort of elderly Dos Equis man, the most famous of the authors. Then, there is Olivia, his ex-lover and quick-witted marijuana smoker; Judi, the group stenographer who laments the realization of her increasing dementia, and Switch, the taciturn, good hearted spoil sport. On the employee side, there is Dr. Kintz, kind and flustered, as he tries to manage these aging autocrats as well as his trove of damaged employees. And, Cecibel, the physically marred orderly who becomes Alfonse’s muse; Sal, the massive black nurse who moonlights as Wispy Flicker, the drag queen; and, Fin, the convicted murderer. Yep, I have that right.

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The Cute and Quirky Love Story of "George and Lizzie", by Nancy Pearl - Book Review

Lizzie may go down as one of my all-time favorite book characters. Raised by two aloof psychologist professors, she’s like a wolf pup left to fend for herself most of the time. When her parents are actually paying attention to her, she’s being evaluated like a trained rat. Not surprisingly, she develops idiosyncrasies which author, Nancy Pearl, writes in thoughtful, humorous ways.

Lizzie is both obsessive and dedicated. After being left broken hearted by Jack, a college boy she dated for less than six months, Lizzie determines that he is the secret to her life’s happiness and lets it occupy much of her head space for years. In the midst of her Jack musings, enters George. Staid, honest, kind, and head over heels for Lizzie in as much a way as a straight-laced dentist can be head over heels. While George courts Lizzie and follows the standard steps for taking a relationship to its next logical level, Lizzie seems almost surprised to realize they are actually seriously involved. Lizzie seems to just acquiesce to George’s love and companionship although she does so, at times, begrudgingly.

Pearl is a librarian and that becomes apparent through her writing. She is a master of detail and her extended vocabulary doesn’t make her a show off; it just makes her pages more interesting. She’s clearly a big college football fan, which I reveled in, and she knows the game. She is also a grammarian who even has Lizzie correcting her own grammar in the book!

There are times when the cadence of the book drags a bit, but the need to find out what happens to Lizzie and George shines through all the way. And, surprisingly, Pearl wraps up seemingly insurmountable hurdles in a few short pages and delivers the ending like a beautifully wrapped gift. After the last line, I shut the book with tears in my eyes and muttered a quiet: Hurray!

Published: 2017
Publisher: Touchstone

Elizabeth's rating: 4 stars