Thursday, April 12, 2012

Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale by Lynda Rutledge — 304 pgs

It’s the last day of the of the old millennium and the revelers of the small town of Bass, Texas, are raring to ring in the year 2000; but one woman, the formidable Faith Bass Darling, has woken this morning with a message from the Almighty. Faith has always been the richest woman in town and has spent her life being blessed with money and material possessions beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. But God has told Faith that this is the last day of her life and that she needs to empty out the huge mansion of all her precious antiques and belongings and have a garage sale. On the lawn. As the neighbors come out to pick and poke, Faith’s friends and family watch in horror, for there is definitely something wrong with her. For starters, she can’t seem to remember old friends, and troublesome people from her past keep appearing in her mind’s eye. For Faith’s daughter, Claudia Jean, the homecoming that she has made to assist her mentally fragile mother is not only a return but a reckoning. There are dark secrets in the Darling’s past, and the one thing that ultimately drove Claudia Jean away will be the one that’s strangely absent, which is almost too terrible to be true. In this evocative and brash novel that revolves around one woman’s obsession to divest herself of all her worldly goods just in time to reach the pearly gates, a whole town discovers what Faith Bass Darling has meant to them all, each in a very different way.

This was one of those books that dealt with some very serious issues within a framework of dry wit and comedy. The darker themes of Alzheimer's, murder, racism, and long-standing family tensions was offset by the lightest touches and strokes of humor that kept the book from being overly somber and weighed down by sorrow. There were sections to smile over, and surprisingly, this didn’t take away from the gravity of the book’s messages or render the characters as stereotypes or caricatures. It was a fine balance and Rutledge manages to keep firm hold of her story and characters in the great dance of tragedy and mirth that unfolds before her readers.

Faith is obviously deteriorating, and although she’s been a recluse for many years, when the mansion doors swing wide to disgorge Tiffany lamps that she’s willing to part with for a dollar, obviously the town takes notice. But few people are actually concerned for Faith Bass Darling. Most of the town’s residents seem bent on taking the befuddled woman’s possessions and leaving her wandering vacantly over her lawn. But there’s more to Faith, because underneath her very obvious confusion, memories and reflections are rising to the surface, things she hasn’t thought of in so long that they’ve been all but  forgotten. As the drive to sell off her possessions becomes stronger, others begin to arrive and discover what’s really going on, much to their horror.

Claudia Jean arrives in town prepared to ask for the one thing that her mother will never part with, the thing she needs to secure her dreams; but what she finds on Faith’s lawn shakes and jangles her into a nearly incoherent state herself. Claudia is the master at running away, and all she wants to do now is run, but there’s too much here to leave behind and the healing that has to take place between her and her mother is like an implacable train she doesn’t want to board. With the help of a man who should have every reason in the world to hate the Darlings, and an old friend who wants to see Claudia and her mother rightly compensated for their family relics, Claudia Jean, along with her mother, wades into the mire of remembering what drove her away and the secrets buried just under the surface.

This novel asks its readers to ponder some heavy questions. How deeply are our possessions tied with our sense of self, and what happens if forgiveness comes too late? Where does the soul reside, and is it possible to die without really being dead? These questions are placed skillfully inside a story that is rich with unique and enigmatic characters that are as finely tuned to each other’s emotions as can be, but who can sometimes miss the things that are right under their noses.

This was a book that I cherished but that also tore my heart into tiny little pieces. It’s an odd thing to be smiling through eyes bleary with tears, but this was what often happened while I was reading this book. If you’re a reader with a love of finely honed literary novels, this is the book I would recommend to you. It is strikingly forceful yet oddly gentle, and I recommend it highly.


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

20 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I just finished writing my review of this book and I think we felt the same way about it but, of course, you expressed it so much better than I did. The more I think about this book, the more I like it - I really liked the way Rutledge tackled tough subjects.

Harvee said...

Sounds like a fantastic book. What a setting and framework for a novel of discovery. Great review.

Jenny said...

My review for this book is written and I'm planning on posting in a couple weeks... but I think I am one of the only people that didn't really care for it! =( There was something different and strange about it to me. I'll have to link to your review to offset my opinion on it. =)

reviewsbylola said...

It sounds like this book was pretty masterful in the way it conveyed the tough issues while still injecting some humor. Great review!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

What an interesting premise for a book! But I shy away from books that tear one's heart into little pieces! :--)

Kay said...

This one has my name written all over it. I'm very drawn to stories that include Alzheimer's. Dealing with it is such a grievous thing, but it's also funny at times and definitely heartbreaking. Sounds like this author handles things well. Looking forward to reading this and a very, very nice review.

Amy said...

oh wow this sounds really different and good. Great review!

Suko said...

'Wow' is right--excellent review! This book sounds profound and enticing.

Ti said...

Once again, you've made me want to read a book that is totally outside of my reading circle. After the first paragraph, it sounded funny and amusing but when she began to sell off her belongings at such a pittance, my red flag went up. My husband's grandmother did a similar thing right before she died. She sold a million dollar home for $600K and the entire neighborhood wanted us to talk to her since it brought the comps down. What can you do? It broke our hearts when the new owners leveled the house and then rebuilt.

Buried In Print said...

The title reminds me of some of Fannie Flagg's titles, which I've always enjoyed. It sounds like this novel has made quite an impression on you: nice to hear!

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

Oh, I'm going to add this one to my wish list. This one sounds very unique and emotional.

Amy said...

This book sounds amazing and so interesting. Your review is fantastic and intriguing because you give a good idea of the story but leave out the really enticing bits and so piqued my curiosity. This book sounds more intense than it appears to be since it looks like a light-hearted, sweet book.
I definitely want to read this one and there it goes on my wishlist!

Jenners said...

At first, this sounds quirky and fun but then it has a deeper and darker side that sounds very affecting. Well done review.

Stacy at A Novel Source said...

Our great-grandfather just passed away about a month ago. He suffered from dementia that we think would have turned into full-blown Alzheimer's had he lived much longer. He went through a period of selling all of his possessions, even the ones he promised to the grandkids, great-grandkids, etc. We found out that that is a symptom of dementia - something I never knew until recently. This book sounds like it may deal with some of that pain and family bewilderment...regardless, I'd love to get my hands on a copy! Excellent review!

Lisa said...

Dang, I looked at that cover and title and thought this might make a great, quick read for readathon. It still might make a great read for readathon but it certainly does pack more into it than you would think at first glance!

Beth F said...

I didn't read your review because I'll be writing my own soon. I'll be back.

Anita said...

You've done it again Heather, given me another book to my TBR list. The book and it's premise sound fascinating, but your review is wonderful, and I can't wait to read this. My aging parents bring me up close and personal to many of the concepts in this book, and you have give me much to look forward to.

nomadreader said...

I rarely seek out fiction that's Southern, but this one sounds quite interesting. I seem to be drawn to novels not about faith, necessarily, but that have a thematic element of faith in them. This one sounds like it would fit right in with this trend.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I hadn't heard of this one before! But it sounds really interesting and your review definitely made me want to read it.

Darlene said...

Great review Heather. I just read a review of this book over at Kathy's and she liked it too. You make it sound like a must read so it's going on my list.

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