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The Big Finish by Brooke Fossey

Eighty-eight-year old Duffy Sinclair is a little bit of a crank, a flirt, a prankster, and scared of losing his home. He and Carl share a room at the Centennial Assisted Living Facility in Brooke Fossey’s novel, The Big Finish.

Sharon, the new owner of Centennial, has plans to remodel and double the fees but can only do it as current residents depart. Departure could mean having to move to the dreaded roach-infested nursing home down the road. Duffy is determined that will not be his and Carl’s fate then Josie literally falls into their lives.

Carl is the best friend Duffy never had and Duffy thought he knew everything about him. But both men have secrets and Carl’s just opened the window and crawled/fell into their room. Barefoot and sporting a shiner Josie has come to visit her grandfather, Carl Thomas Upton.
Duffy is ready to call the staff as he knows Carl and his late wife did not have children. But Carl acknowledges Josie’s claim and the first order of business is to hide her as Nurse Nora is at the door. Then the debate begins.

Josie wants to stay a week but Duffy is not ready to risk his spot at Centennial hosting an unauthorized guest. Carl reveals the circumstances of Josie’s mother birth and mourns that her recent death means he’ll never get the redemption he sought. Josie is his second chance.

Disappointed in Carl and scared of what eviction would mean Duffy is adamant that Josie leave. But then Josie enters the facility in a more conventional manner. The other residents and staff are charmed by Carl’s granddaughter. With Josie invited to join them on a planned trip to Walmart Duffy is determined to keep an eye on her.

What he sees is that Josie may have a more serious problem than needing a place to stay. Duffy is 13 years sober and in Josie he recognizes the same physical symptoms he suffered when alcohol ruled his life. His big secret – alcoholism and the life he wasted.

Despite his misgivings Duffy decides that Josie needs an intervention. But first he has to convince her she needs help and to complicate things further Bates shows up looking for Josie. Bates claims to be her boyfriend but he appears none to friendly and probably the cause of her black eye. He brings a whole new set of problems for the octogenarian determined to get Josie’s life back on track.

Each day Centennial has a schedule of the events for the day. The story starts with Saturday August 26 and the last day is Wednesday August 30. In those 5 short days can Duffy turn Josie’s life around? Will he find that Josie can be his redemption?

This novel is at times funny, touching, harrowing, and sad. The challenges of aging and what it means to be family are explored in this entertaining first novel by Fossey. The author has a knack for good dialogue and characters and I had no trouble picturing Duffy, Carl and Josie in my mind as I read.

Read-alikes for this title are The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. If you enjoyed those novels, you’ll find Duffy’s tale to your liking.

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In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Meet Dannie Kohan. Numbers are important to her.

Here are a few:

Thirty-six — the number of minutes it takes Dannie to get ready each morning.

Eighteen — the number of minutes it takes her to walk to work.

Twenty-four — the number of months you should date someone before you move in together.

Twenty-eight — the appropriate age to get engaged.

Thirty — the opportune age to get married.

As you can tell, Dannie has her life measured and mapped out — all at the age of 28. She lives with her boyfriend David and is on the fast-track to being a partner in a large law firm that she has wanted to work at since she was 10 years old.

She is nothing like her best friend, Bella, who is happy-go-lucky and embraces the adventures in life to their fullest. They have known each other since they were 7 years old, when they met at a park, and have been inseparable ever since.

Both live in New York, but Bella is a frequent traveler and Dannie’s work rarely allows her to make it home in time for dinner.

Dannie and David agree on the importance of a plan. Their plan is to get engaged, continue on their current career paths, get married, move to Gramercy Park and have a couple of kids. It may not be happily ever after in the truest sense of the phrase, but it works for them.

Bella, an artist, owns a gallery and falls in love at the drop of a hat. Dannie lives vicariously through Bella’s many adventures and loves.

Things seem to be aligning perfectly in Dannie’s life, until one night, after David proposes, she drifts off and wakes up five years later. Surprisingly, her future looks nothing like her life of today, and during the brief time she is transported, she sees where she lives, and more surprisingly, who she is with. She does not stay in the future for long and when she wakes, back in her real life, she is not sure what to think. Was it a dream? Premonition? Is she losing her mind?

Flash forward 41/2 years, and Dannie is still engaged to David but not yet married; she is working for her dream law firm, and she is getting ready to meet Bella’s new boyfriend. This is where it gets interesting, and Dannie realizes that her premonition may have not been a dream.

REBECCA SERLE has created a captivating read in her novel, “IN FIVE YEARS.” She does an excellent job setting the scene and allowing the reader to be drawn into the story. Her descriptions of New York — the fashion, the art and the food — seem spot on. I felt like I was there.

The tale Serle has crafted is heart-wrenching and beautifully crafted. It is an unexpected love story that is hard to put down. Many readers will be inspired to question their daily lives, their choices and if they appreciate what they have and where they are in life.

Jeana Gockley is the director of the Joplin Public Library.

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The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal

Rhett and Link met in the first grade at Buies Creek Elementary School in 1984. The story goes that they were both held back from recess for writing profanity on their desks. While everyone else was outside playing, they spent their recess coloring mythical creatures. They have been best friends ever since, and even made a blood oath to commit to always work together and create big things. That promise has been kept. Some of their earliest projects include a screenplay Gutless Wonders (never finished), and a punk rock band.

Fast forward to today, they run one of the most successful Youtube channels, Good Mythical Morning (GMM), with over 15 million subscribers, and over 5 million views daily. Their catalog also includes music videos, the web television series Buddy System,  their award winning podcast EarBiscuits, comedy/musical tours, and the New York Times’ Bestseller Book of Mythicality. 

Why am I mentioning all of this? Because the parallels between real life and fiction are evident in Rhett and Link’s second book, and first novel The Lost Causes of Bleak Creak. The book follows the friendship of Rex and Leif in the town of, you guessed it, Bleak Creak, North Carolina. Bleak Creek is a typical, small southern town. One that holds religion, family values, and tradition close to heart. It is a seemingly cheerful place, but every town, no matter how big or small, has its secrets.

The first chapter starts with Rex, Leif, and their friend Alicia filming a scene for their film, Polterdog (similar to the screenplay Gutless Wonders mentioned above). Something goes wrong during the filming of a scene which lands the three friends in trouble, one of the terms of punishment being that they are no longer allowed to film their movie. Alicia who already has a bad reputation due to previous circumstances, gets the worst punishment of the self-appointed Triumvirate. But having put so much time and energy into their movie, the group decides to meet up and film one last scene. As Rex and Leif make it to Alicia’s house, they soon find out she is in trouble. They find out she is being sent, against her will, to Wayne Whitewood’s reform school. Shrouded in mystery, no one really knows what happens inside the ominous building surrounded by a chain-linked fence, but it has a reputation of its own. Some people never return, those who do come back aren’t quite the same, almost zombie-like, without the appetite for brains. Either way, Rex and Leif have no choice but to try and save their friend from certain demise.

For a comedic duo, Rhett and Link wrote a thrilling page-turner. There is plenty of 90s nostalgia, and nods to good-ole southern traditions such as pig pickins’. They took elements from their personal lives and transformed into something magical. Hopefully this can turn a few people into a Mythical Beast, or fans of the GMM channel, because the friendship of Rhett and Link is so wholesome and inspiring. Their most recent episodes have been shot documentary-style, while they take you through Buies Creek to revisit their childhood homes, church, and the creek itself. It adds another layer to the novel. Even though  Halloween is over, there is always room for a little suspense and psychological terror (especially with the holiday season approaching fast), and this book delivers.

 

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Stay: A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List (Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise), by Lisa E. Brown

Dogs. I love ‘em.

So when I saw “Stay” featured on the Facebook page of an Oklahoma public library that I follow, I knew I had to read it. Problem was, Joplin Public Library didn’t have this already two-year-old children’s book in its collection. No worries, I simply suggested it for purchase and impatiently waited until it arrived.

Written and illustrated by sisters Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise, respectively, this storybook is subtitled “A girl, a dog, a bucket list.” Lest you think with wording like that that it will be a heartbreaking tale of loss, let me assure you that “Stay” is in fact a sweet story of the special relationship between two friends.

Eli, a big, fluffy, gray and white dog, has been around since Astrid came home from the hospital as a newborn. As Klise puts it, “He was Astrid’s first friend.” He is her protector, her playmate, her pillow. He eats under the table when she eats, and sleeps in her bed.

But as Astrid grows up, Eli grows old. It’s a poignant refrain in the book.

One day Astrid comments on how slowly Eli walks now. After a special day at the park, spent eating popcorn and sliding down a sun-warmed slide, Astrid vows to make a list of the things Eli should do before he gets too old. She forms a bucket list of adventures they can have together.

What’s on Astrid and Eli’s bucket list? Riding a bike. Checking out dog books from the library and reading them together. Going to see “Lassie” in a movie theater. Sleeping under the stars. Taking a bubble bath. Astrid even surprises Eli with something special.

Weeks pass, and Eli continues to age. His vision fades, and he no longer has the strength to walk to the park. But that doesn’t matter, as Astrid and Eli happily spend precious time together.

I will warn you, I shed tears while reading this book. It’s not that “Stay” was sad, per se; it was just bittersweet, and it made me think about the dogs I’ve had in my life, and how I watched them grow old.

There was Charlie, the intelligent and loyal black miniature poodle I grew up with. Then came Costi, the yappy Shih Tzu prone to begging at mealtimes that joined my family when I was in high school. Toby, the first dog I adopted as an adult, was a stubborn, willful Rottweiler-German Shepherd mix who tested my patience but became my whole heart and taught me how to enjoy life again. Molly, a rescue rough-coated Collie was possibly the sweetest dog I’ve ever met. All those dogs are gone now, but I have Buster, my fun-loving Corgi-German Shepherd mix who at 10 years old still likes to jump off the side of the back porch, chase rabbits and tussle with my dog sister, Destiny. But even now Buster is slowing down. His eyes are growing less bright, and white hair is starting to creep into his muzzle. I’m confident he has years left, but I’m still aware of the inevitable passage of time.

I hope you find inspiration in this lovely book, which can be found in the Children’s Department of the Joplin Public Library. Yes, we grow old, as do our animal companions, but there is still much fun to be had together. Embrace the time you have, and make it special. Even the little things you do create lasting memories.

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