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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2011
When Monroe Colson suddenly leaves his intimate Texas hometown and decamps for Mexico, he announces it's so he can find uninterrupted time and inspiration for his art. But Monroe has a secret he isn't telling anyone--not his close friends, not his estranged wife and son, and certainly not the beautiful young woman he rescues from her abusive boyfriend on the patio of a Mexican taqueria. He came to Mexico to avoid entanglements, not seek them out. But the woman--Angelina--creeps past his defenses with her open, ingenuous embracing of life, and Monroe must reassess the secret he guards--and the resolution he's made because of it--and decide whether to open himself up to love despite the vulnerabilities it creates.
Asher's novel is a lyrically written portrait of the beauty and culture of Mexico, art, and most of all, the risks--and triumphs--of letting someone love you unconditionally. Asher's prose is elegant and evocative, but his characters are so real, and he weaves such welcome humor amid the pathos, that his writing offers real emotional impact without a trace of Nicholas Sparks schmaltz. A lovely, engaging read that feels like a trip through Mexico through the eyes of someone who knows it well--and loves it--and a touching exploration of what it means to let someone love you--for better or for worse.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2011
I've read two of Asher's books and I like them both. In "A Dignified Exit" he describes Mexico so well, I think I've been there. And the characters are complex, expresive and memorable. He weaves all this togeher into a seamless story that kept me reading until I finished the book, Heck, I read it again within two weeks just for the pleasure of reading it. Didn't matter that I knew what would happen, I just enjoy the way he strings words together. This man can write.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2011
I generally read commercial fiction, mysteries and thrillers for the most part, so it's a rare day that a book like John J. Asher's 'A Dignified Exit' finds its way onto my book shelves. And to provide full disclosure, the author is a friend of mine for whom I have the greatest respect as a writer and artist.

Before purchasing the paperback edition, I'd read bits and pieces, including a broad overview as I helped format his manuscript for an eBook. And it is safe to say that nothing in those "snacks" could have prepared me for sitting down to the full meal.

About 100 pages into the book, the thought struck me that back on page one I would have never predicted the smooth and effortless way Asher manages to maneuver his way past my mystery/thriller bias with the character of Monroe Colson. No action hero here, only a flawed man, with poignant backstory aplenty, who in essence dares me not to engage with him on a journey to a dignified exit.

Asher holds this "thriller guy's" interest in spite of the languid pacing, which, like the setting (Mexico), has a siesta quality that I would normally find boring and reason enough to put the book down for good.

He does it with a style rich in detail, and which engages all the senses. His descriptions of the scenery, sounds, aromas, characters, and situations flow from the mind of an artist and paint a word picture that comes alive on the page.

But the truly remarkable element of this novel for me is the way in which Asher intersects the lives of Monroe Colson and Angelina Farretti. I might have initially likened the challenge to the futility of mixing water and oil, but he succeeds with a skillful crafting of scenes that leave me with conflicting emotional involvement in the story and its characters.

I knew all along where the story was going, and I very much wanted events to reverse course, or at least change direction. It's almost if I expected something impossible to happen. To make it an easier story to read. To leave me less involved so I didn't care as much. In other words, to read a story the way I might have written it.

Asher flinched not from his vision, of course, and dared me to put his novel down. And if the truth be told, he probably knows I wouldn't.

As the pages-to-go thinned within my right hand, I dreaded what I knew was coming, knew it would be painful, and yet something within me held out for a ray of hope that I'd be wrong.

No spoilers here in closing, just that Asher left me with a profound sense of bittersweet, a combination of sadness and hope, as if experiencing a sunset and a new dawn at the same moment.

For what it's worth, this thriller guy highly recommends 'A Dignified Exit' as a beautifully crafted, moving story that tugs the heartstrings in multiple directions at once.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2012
I opened this book to refresh my memory of it when I was "thinning" the books on my Kindle -- moving things off that I wouldn't be getting to for a while. I didn't close it until I was finished.(Any plot points mentioned here are available in the product description, and I don't believe I've given any spoilers, but if you want to avoid any potential spoilers, you might want to stop reading this review after the second paragraph.)

The characters in this story are lively, real people. They've made mistakes and keep on going. Monroe has had his share of joy and sorrow, and made his share of mistakes, as well. He's a complex character who's seen a lot of life; he thinks it's jaded him, and he does make attempts to shut himself off from connections with others when he reaches a certain point in his life, but his essential generosity of spirit combined with his still-very-human need for relationships with others makes this endeavor founder before it ever really launches.

He's already begun to cut parts of himself off from the rest of the world even before he decides to make his big break and move down to Mexico, where he plans to live a reclusive life, but when he meets Angelina, a young American woman stranded after her (ex) fiance abandons her and takes all their money, he makes a connection that will change his life. Despite himself, Monroe finds himself making other relationships in town, and his relationship with Angelina deepens.

This story explores family, friendships, and individual independence in a nuanced way with characters who are real, likeable, and flawed.

Four and a half stars for a very moving book. (348 pages, 4387 locations)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2012
Monroe Colson, a not-very-successful painter in his late fifties who has managed to make a good living as an illustrator of children's books, abruptly departs the small Texas town where he lives and works, leaving behind his numerous friends, and his painfully estranged family, and drives to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico to spend a quiet year doing what he loves most. A chance encounter with a young woman, as might be expected, upends his carefully prepared plan. They establish an uneasy platonic friendship within which they both work very hard to avoid having their own emotional bruises bumped up against. They are destined, however, to learn what they already know in their hearts: true relationships don't work that way.

John Asher is a talented artist, as can be clearly seen in his illustration for the cover, and he writes with a talented artist's eye. His poignant words deftly recreate both the physical landscape of a Mexico steeped in its past and the emotional cloudscape of two people trying not to fall in love.

Art is at the heart of this novel. In it, Monroe offers a definition; "... art is the most of what you expect next combined with the least of what you expect next." It's an apt definition that fully applies to A Dignified Exit.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2012
The first thing that drew me to this book was the cover. I thought it was lovely, perfectly imperfect, and original. But I didn't read it at first, and I forgot about it. When I started cleaning out my Kindle a week or so ago, I found it again. The cover caught my attention just like before, and I decided to read it.

I thought this book was wonderful. It was very descriptive, very friendly, and very sweet. It is a great show of how human beings can be selfish and selfless. Monroe and Angelina are a wonderful set of characters, perfectly set opposite personalities, strong willed, and they made the story worthwhile. The secondary characters were great, too. The children, the family and friends, and the pets. It is well rounded and well written.

I took away a star because at times Angelina was getting on my nerves. She never seemed to want Monroe to do anything, but it's my own personal taste and it doesn't mean the story is bad.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this story. The author is a great storyteller. Beautiful writing.

Thank you so much.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I hated to see it end for several reasons. It approaches a difficult topic, our individual death and develops a story with interesting and likable characters involved in a man's wish to die on his own terms and with a dignity that he feels is the final imperative. The story is more than how he does it. It is a layered story with several themes that start unaffiliated and through the authors crafty plot they end up joined at the close of the book. I would recommend the book and I would read other titles by this author.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2012
A DIGNIFIED EXIT kept me reading from beginning to end. John J. Asher has a gift of writing beautiful prose that rarely is seen in today's commercial fiction. Think Barbara Kingsolver, Pat Conroy, or Tom Clancy.

The story has all the elements of a great read: interesting characters, an action filled plot with lots of unexpected twists and turns, and heart. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes good literary fiction.

Retired I.T. Manager/ Author
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2012
"A Dignified Exit" depicts the moral dilemma inherent in one man's decision to move to Mexico. Monroe Colson leaves his family and friends in small town Texas, ostensibly to pursue his ambition of becoming a successful painter after years of illustrating children's books. Yet unknown to those closest to him, Monroe has another motive he didn't reveal.

Colson arrives in San Miguel, but instead of devoting his time to art, he is immediately involved in the plight of a young, beautiful, American woman, Angelina Farretti, whose situation has left her penniless in an unfamiliar city. Colson assists the woman financially while she proves herself helpful to him in a variety of ways. Colson and Farretti, both bruised by former unsatisfying relationships, cautiously navigate a comfort zone that evolves into much more.

"A Dignified Exit" exemplifies how close relationships enable people to endure alienation and disappointment. It emphasizes the importance of change as one matures and implies how essential love, responsibility and reconciliation are to human happiness.

The book is lyrically written with a strong sense of place, interesting ethical questions, and humor. The writing is incisive, descriptive and intelligent. Asher's sense of pace is excellent. Readers pondering the issues of death and dying and man's responsibility to his fellow man will find this an enjoyable read. Additionally, Asher weaves the theme of art into his work, illuminating man's relentless pursuit of art both in the evolution of his talent and in his life as a whole.

Marjorie Meyerle
Colorado Writer
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2012
I just finished this book and really enjoyed it! The ending was great, and I would recommend this book. My husband read it first and told me how much he liked it.
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