Thursday, August 13, 2015

Review: The Reinvention of Albert Paugh by Jean Okimoto Davies

When you sit down to plan for your future, the long term goal is almost always retirement, no matter what other shorter term goals you have along the way. People bandy about the age at which they want to retire, they invest with an eye to not having to work during their older years, they fantasize about what they'll do when they no longer have to put in a 9 to 5 day. But how many people really and truly find exactly what they expect when they do retire? It can be hard to fill all those once busy hours, especially for someone whose work defined him or her. Retirement is a huge new chapter in a life, one that can take some adjusting to. In Jean Davies Okimoto's newest novel, The Reinvention of Albert Paugh, the third in her Island Trilogy, Albert Paugh is wrestling with what his life is going to look like now that he's retired.

Al has been the much loved Vashon Island veterinarian for many years but after a heart attack, he sold his business and now finds himself adrift. He loved his job and the animals entrusted to his care but with all his new-found free time he finds himself skulking around outside his old clinic looking for changes the new vet has made and judging him for things that Al thinks are solely monetarily driven. He obviously needs to find other ways to occupy his time. It doesn't help that one day Al comes home from walking his beloved dog Bert to find that his wife has re-evaluated her own life (she's a cancer survivor) and wants a divorce. Now he's retired, wondering if his marriage was as passionless as his wife claimed, and has to find a new home. If anyone is in need of reinvention, it is Al.

He finds a rental on Baker's Beach, close to his dearest friend and in a small community of other caring neighbors. As Al adjusts to the demise of his marriage and the complete freedom he has from his wife Eleanor's strict dictates, he tries to decide what he wants to do with the rest of his life and to find meaning in something other than the work that he loved. He is naive and strangely helpless during this time of his life and he's an easy target for the casserole brigade since he is inherently kind. Although she is also a "woman of a certain age" who would make a good fit for Al, his new neighbor Bonnie is dealing with her own life changes and tragedies. But the two find themselves to be kindred spirits and strike up a lovely, supportive friendship as each faces down the upheavals and major life changes that the universe has thrown at them.

Al's character comes across as bewildered and a little lost for much of the novel. All the characters, from the elderly Martha Jane, to couple Howie and Mark, to Bonnie, are comfortable and easy, the only exception being the high strung Eleanor. These characterizations give the novel a gentle, almost old-fashioned feel. It does take Al a while to recognize how he should occupy his days, how to give himself meaning again and he is very much incapable of reading social cues, which can be very frustrating especially as he debates and second guesses so much. But that's fairly minor in the grand scheme of things. Although this is the third in a trilogy, there is absolutely no need to be familiar with the first two books to read this one. This is a novel with a charming setting, kindly characters, a simple quandary or two, a heap of hope, and the promise that there is not only life but happiness and satisfaction in the later part of life.

For more information about Jean Okimoto Davies and the book, check out her website. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

1 comment:

  1. I love that Albert finds happiness later in life, and I love that he is such a real character. I'm looking forward to reading his story!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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