Thursday, February 16, 2012

Review: Walter's Muse by Jean Davies Okimoto

There's a plethora of novels about the life and loves of young women but there's less available out there for older women. I don't know if it's a function of the audience wanting to read about the green and untried, if it's because that's what research shows will sell best, or because bildungsroman is the traditional narrative trope but there's a lot to be said for the stories of people who have some experience of life under their belt. Okimoto's lovely novel of love at a later age is one of these gentle books that tell the tale of such a couple of lives.

The novel opens with a summer storm blowing through Vashon Island, WA and retired children's librarian Maggie hearing something unusual in between generator noise and the gusting wind. It turns out to be her curmudgeonly neighbor's dog howling because his master is trapped under debris having suffered a small stroke. Maggie goes to his rescue and finds herself becoming more and more enmeshed in Walter's life, again. She and Walter, who is a famous, rather reclusive children's author, have a history together and it's not a pretty one.

Maggie is a good-hearted character who has found herself a place in the small, rather earthy community of Vashon Island and she is taking the summer, the first one of her retirement, to decide what she wants out of life. Taking care of Walter and his devoted mutt Bill Bailey are not in her plans. But she can't just abandon him to his solitude either. Meanwhile, Maggie's younger sister, a needy sort of person who is rarely without a man, is in the throes of another divorce from yet another wealthy husband and she has decided that she should be closer to her only family, arriving on Maggie's doorstep and selfishly (or perhaps just self-centeredly) adding to the caretaking burden Maggie is already under.

Walter, when he suffers his small stroke, is in the midst of another book, which Maggie, an inveterate snooper (she charmingly admits to her vices, small as they are) has started reading. She loves it but her snooping also tells her that it won't be easy for Walter to publish this novel because of the climate of children's publishing. And so Maggie steps up to help Walter keep momentum, to shepherd him through his charming tale. As she types his manuscript, she and Walter develop a relationship and face the history that they have together.

This is a tale of friendship and love, facing mortality and the worth of human connection. The characters are delightful, engaging, and fully formed and it is a pleasure to follow them as they discover not only their own worths but also the worth of others close to them. There are no big explosions here, just the drama of everyday living while aging but that makes for a surprisingly good and pleasing read. Second chances are the stuff of life as long as a person has the courage to keep living it and ultimately Maggie and Walter and all those around them show readers that simple courage.

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

And don't forget to visit TLC's Book Club giveaway in the month of March where up to ten copies of this charming story will be up for grabs for your bookclub.

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


  1. Yet another book for my groaning TBR list. This sounds really interesting, and it's local for me.

  2. I really enjoy books about people finding love later in life - I wish there were lots more out there like this one!

    Thanks for being on the tour.


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