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patfrench

Stop Making Sense

I read anything that's nailed down, or even just moving slowly. Cereal boxes, candy wrappers, all genres, etc., and I don't always have much time for arbitrary distinctions like literary fiction vs. genre fiction.

To Sail into the Sunset?

Howard Elman's Farewell (Darby Chronicles) - Ernest Hebert

[Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book through LibraryThing.]

I'm not sure whether it helped or hurt that this is the first "Darby Chronicles" book I've read, and it might be the last one written! I do wish I'd discovered them before now, because I like this cast of characters very much.

To recap the bidding: 80-something widower and self-appointed Darby, NH constable Howard Elman is heading toward "the big sleep" and wants to do a great thing before he kicks off. He wakes up one fine morning to find that his eponymous elm tree has been cut down. Howard is on the job!

Along the way, though, he has to wrestle with petty town politics, technology he doesn't understand, the voice in his head, his crazy(?) friend Cooty, friends, relatives of all flavors, dead bodies, and the weather.

This is a novel about not going quietly into that good night, about putting up a fight while you still can, and about seizing opportunities to still make a difference. As somebody who's increasingly been thinking about this stuff in her own life, I totally connected with Howard on that level. Younger readers might not click with this aspect, but there's enough other stuff going on to make it a worthwhile read, especially if you're already a fan of the town and its motley crew. Howard's inner dialogs were a particular pleasure for me:

Pride is a sin.
Yeah, maybe for a Catholic. For me it's the branch sticking out of the cliff that I'm holding on to.

What is it about you, Howie?
I like rust, I like dead end streets, I like a break in a Jack Landry curve ball, I like a crack in the pavement; there's humanity in a mistake; there's entertainment in guesswork; and hope is a four-letter word.

I'm not going to lie: I cried in several places in this book--Howard's seen a lot of loss, and he doesn't shy away from it. But he can also laugh at himself and others (especially others), and I'd like to go have a beer with him. He's good company.