Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review: The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley

Here is a summary of the book from Walter Mosley's website:

At ninety-one years old, Ptolemy Grey is one of the world’s forgotten: by his family, by his friends, by even himself. Marooned in a cluttered Los Angeles apartment overflowing with mementos from his past, Ptolemy sinks deeper into lonely dementia and into a past that’s best left buried. He’s determined to pass the rest of his days with only his memories for company. Until, at his grandnephew’s funeral, he meets Robyn and experiences a seismic shift, in his head, his heart, and his life.

Seventeen and without a family of her own, Robyn is unlike anyone Ptolemy has ever known. She and Ptolemy form an unexpected bond that reinvigorates his world. Robyn will not tolerate the way he has allowed himself to live, skulking in and out of awareness barely long enough to cash his small pension checks, living in fear of his neighbors and the memories that threaten to swallow him. With Robyn’s help, Ptolemy moves from isolation back into the brightness of friendship and desire. But Robyn’s challenges also push Ptolemy to make a life-changing decision that will affect both of them: to recapture the clarity and vigor of his fading mind and unlock the secrets he has carried for decades.

Already an acclaimed and beloved literary voice, Walter Mosley charts new territory in the exploration of the complex tensions at the heart of race in America. A novel that explores the generosity of love, the influence of memory, and our human desire for connection, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is a contemporary classic.

My Review:
Mosley takes us on the end of life journey of Ptolemy Grey, as he is an elderly gentleman whose dementia is getting worse every day.  With the book being narrated by Ptolemy we are given a front row seat to his confusion as his thoughts become more scattered.  He finds more and more that his distant memories are beginning to be combined with his more current memories  so he gets to the point where he is not sure if his memories are actually real.

Ptolemy had a nephew who came to help him with general needs every so often.  They would go buy groceries, have lunch, cash his retirement checks, and whatever else might need to be done on any particular visit.  Ptolemy can't help but become alarmed when this loving nephew is suddenly murdered.  He loved this young man that took such good care of him, and what would become of him now?

At his nephew's funeral, Ptolemy is introduced to a young gal named Robyn, a young woman who appears to be fending for herself in this world, that one of Ptolemy's relatives has taken into their home.  Ptolemy and Robin find something special in each other and make a connection that Ptolemy hasn't experienced in years.  As he lets Robyn into his life a little more each day, she becomes more than a casual acquaintance, but also a dear friend who truly cares for him.

Things are about to change quickly for Ptolemy as a consultation with a social worker puts him on a path to meet a doctor that will help him with his memory problems.  Will the ultimate sacrifice make everything worthwhile for Ptolemy to have vivid memories of his entire life?  Ptolemy feels this is the direction that is necessary for him to leave a legacy for all of his loved ones.

This was a beautifully written novel that made me realize how frustrated my 89 year old Grandma must be in her body as she searches for words that came to her easily in the past.  I admit that I get frustrated at times listening to the same stories over and over, but I guess this is her way of keeping her memories alive so who I am to put a kabash to that?  With themes of race issues, elderly mistreatment, familial obligations, and friendship, this book has much to offer for a various array of readers.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me from the publisher through the Shelf Awareness Newsletter in exchange for an honest review.


bermudaonion said...

My sister really enjoyed this book too. Just your review makes me realize I need to be more patient with older folks.

Alyce said...

I have this one but I haven't read it yet. Reading your review actually made me aware of how little time I spend with elderly people anymore. Sadly that is because most of them in my family have passed away. It's weird to think that in another twenty years it will be my parents' generation taking that role.

UK said...

This is a Walter Mosley I've never known. I was touched with the plight of old age and cheered by the salvation of youth. I'm looking forward to a second reading. The first time was for the fun of finding out what happens. The second is to revisit the wisdom of the characters.

Anonymous said...