REVIEW: The Big Finish by Brooke Fossey
Meet Duffy, an old curmudgeon who lives in an assisted living home.
Meet Josie, a desperate young woman who climbs through his window.
Together, they’re going to learn it’s never too late—or too early—to change your ways.
For Duffy Sinclair, life boils down to one simple thing: maintaining his residence at the idyllic Centennial Assisted Living. Without it, he’s destined for the roach-infested nursing home down the road—and after wasting the first eighty-eight years of his life, he refuses to waste away for the rest. So, he keeps his shenanigans to the bare minimum with the help of his straight-laced best friend and roommate, Carl Upton.
But when Carl’s granddaughter Josie climbs through their bedroom window with booze on her breath and a black eye, Duffy’s faced with trouble that’s sticking around and hard to hide—from Centennial’s management and Josie’s toxic boyfriend. Before he knows it, he’s running a covert operation that includes hitchhiking and barhopping.
He might as well write himself a one-way ticket to the nursing home…or the morgue. Yet Duffy’s all in. Because thanks to an unlikely friendship that becomes fast family—his life doesn’t boil down the same anymore. Not when he finally has a chance to leave a legacy.
In a funny, insightful, and life-affirming debut, Brooke Fossey delivers an unflinching look at growing old, living large, and loving big, as told by a wise-cracking man who didn’t see any of it coming.
Dear Ms. Fossey,
First of all, despite the cover and blurb, this is not a cutesy book about charming and incorrigible elders sweetly sticking it to the Man as they have a last hurrah. There is humor, there are incorrigible elders but what they’re doing is far more than that. And this is the first straight A grade I’ve given a book this year. It deserves it.
The aging residents of Centennial Assisted Living (do NOT call it a nursing home) have serious concerns despite a lovely relationship with the nursing staff. Well, for one thing they’re trying to avoid being labeled as “problem patients” who will need more care than the assisted living center in which they’re living can give. If that happens, they know they’re on a one way trip to the hellhole nursing home that is the only other option in their small town. They also know that the owner of the assisted living center will gladly boot them out to renovate their rooms and rent them out at twice the price. Then there’s the issue of Carl’s granddaughter and Duffy’s lifelong battle with alcohol.
When Josie comes slithering in through their ground floor bedroom window, Duffy doesn’t know what to say when his roommate Carl does claim her as his granddaughter. Duffy and Carl had long exchanged every secret they had – or so Duffy thought. Duffy had also held Carl up as the one of them who’d never done wrong. Carl had loved his wife of 52 years, still kept their wedding photo on his dresser, and had only told Duffy about his stillborn son. So where did Josie come from?
Is doesn’t take Duffy long to figure out Josie’s secret either – one that he also shares. But Carl is determined to claim this time with the daughter of the daughter he’d begged for years to know. Turns out Duffy isn’t the only one with issues in his past after all. Can anyone help this young woman start to battle her demons both internal and external? And will these elders be able to help deliver justice and pull off a last adventure?
I’m not to this point in life yet but my mother is. Each month is a struggle with what your body can’t do anymore despite how much you remember doing it over the course of a long life. As a friend of mine says, getting old ain’t for sissies. This book lays it out and doesn’t stint with the truth. It is sad at times and sobering as I’m closer to it than to my youth. Things aren’t as flexible, there are times when stuff hurts, and occasionally a word doesn’t come to mind as quickly as it once did. But strangely what I love is how individual all the residents are and that they aren’t all lovable old coots. There are tensions, people rub each other the wrong way and at times fall short, and there is their universal fear of death and having to move to Simmons – one step above ghastly living death.
Of all the – ahem – difficult residents, Duffy clearly takes the cake. Forthright, outspoken, with opinions he doesn’t hesitate to give he is the picture beside the word “Curmudgeon” in the dictionary. He freely confesses to us his past sins – and they were many – as well as his anger at what his roommate is asking him to do in helping hide Josie on the premises. The longer Josie stays, the more things occur that (in the opinion of the assisted living center owner) push Duffy closer to the line in the sand which will send him to Simmons.
But by golly, Duffy has got grit. When the chips are down, he’s there and he’s going to stay there for this young woman. In fifty years, he doesn’t want her to reach the point he has – looking back at a life wasted, choices lost, and no family. This is his chance – although Duffy never quite comes out and says that – to fix this, to do something big, to do a thing that means something, that will have lasting value.
I did not see the ending coming. It made me cry but also smile. It’s uplifting but avoids twee or cutesy. It fits the book and the characters created. I love this book and when I finished it, I was hugging it to my chest. A
This sounds wonderful, thank you for a great review. The blurb and cover made me think of Michael Malone’s hilarious and lovely HANDLING SIN, wherein upstanding Raleigh Hayes’ elderly father escapes from a nursing home in a gold Cadillac and goes on a multi-state odyssey with a young woman. Highly recommended if you’ve not read it.
@Darlynne: No I have’t read it but it’s on my wish list at Amazon now. Thanks for the rec.
But a warning in case my review didn’t make it clear, there will be tears from this book.
@Jayne: No, you were clear, as was how much you loved this book and that you hugged it to you. It was the cover and blurb that had me thinking, “Oooh, another HANDLING SIN,” with such glee. Despite the tears, I very much want to read this.
This does sound lovely, Jayne. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
Now that I’ve read the book–and loved it–I have to say that your review was spot on. That cover is so misleading, but I suppose it accomplished its goal by getting me to look at it in the first place.
What great characters, every one of them. All the heartbreak and joy, all the determination; even Reginald (pretty sure) with his plan. I hope they’re ok in their fictional lives.
@Darlynne: Thanks for letting me know what you thought of it. I’m so glad that the rec worked for you and what a wonderful thought – that everyone is still good even after we close the “cover” of the book.