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Breaking Out of Bedlam: A Novel Paperback – March 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307460770
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307460776
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her delightful second novel (after Slipstream), Larson injects a jolt of liveliness into the bleak setting of an assisted living home, thanks to the obstinate and crass narrator, 82-year-old Cora Sledge. The overweight, pill-popping Cora is placed in the Palisades by her children after they deem her unfit to care for herself. Once there, she begins writing in the journal her granddaughter gave her, her entries eventually revolving around a big secret from her past. Meanwhile, around the Palisades, Cora is often in the midst of—if not at the center of—resident feuds, both the victim and suspect of a spree of robberies and the recipient of a suave new resident's amorous attention. Perhaps not surprisingly, Cora decides to take control of her life, and as she questions the loyalty of those closest to her, she reveals intimate feelings and personal heartaches that have always been obscured by her rough exterior. Cora's machinations—sometimes wily, sometimes curious, always funny—and her lovable crustiness give this plenty of heart and humor. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“A kick….Reading [Cora’s]’journals,’ as she reawakens, finds a friend and a paramour, and plots her escape, is a hoot.”
The New York Times

“Tough-edged Cora Sledge, 82, is a reluctant resident of The Palisades nursing home—a ‘prison [where] your only crime is you lived too long.’ Her tell-all journal, recounting dramas at the home (thefts, love affairs, rivalries) and a tragedy buried in her past, is profane, harrowing, comical—and Cora’s voice is spot-on.”
AARP Magazine

Breaking out of Bedlam is a fun—and inspiring—read, that proves you’re never too old to really start living.”
Instinct magazine

“Larson has drawn a winning character in Cora . . . a Confederate Stone Angel, with our Hagar as template. Like Hagar, she is rude, crude, arrogant, and totally without apology—and readers should admire her for it.”
The Hamilton Spectator (Canada)

“Delightful . . . Larson injects a jolt of liveliness into the bleak setting of an assisted living home, thanks to the obstinate and crass narrator, 82-year-old Cora Sledge. . . . Cora’s machinations—sometimes wily, sometimes curious, always funny—and her lovable crustiness give this plenty of heart and humor.”
Publishers Weekly
 
“Heartwarming and funny, with nary a slip into sentimentality.”
Kirkus Reviews
 
“Leslie Larson is a writer of tales that are hilarious and heartbreaking at once—no easy feat, but the mark of great storytelling. She writes with an intimate eye and heart about citizens so familiar to the American landscape, we don’t even see them.”
—Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street

“Leslie Larson has created an original in Cora Sledge. Overweight with secrets, tough as she is ill, Cora is about to spill the beans on her ill-mannered, kidnapping children in a journal given to her by a grandchild. Instead, what she discovers in this moving and funny novel about assisted living is, to her astonishment, a primer on love.”
—Helena María Viramontes, author of Their Dogs Came with Them
 
“Is death a tragedy or a triumph? Is it a nightmare or a dark comedy? Do we put our accounts in order, or do we exact our revenge? Is there, even, a touch of grace? Somehow, Leslie Larson manages to explore all these possibilities in this powerful novel.”
—Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter and Into the Beautiful North
 
“In a voice brimming with wit, energy, and originality, and with a keen eye and a pitch-perfect ear for language, Leslie Larson delivers us a protagonist like no other. Through Cora Sledge’s unique perspective, we ache and laugh along with her until the very last page, and she reminds us that longing and acceptance are at the very core of the human condition no matter what our age or circumstance.”
—Alex Espinoza, author of Still Water Saints

"Few women have kept me as worried and curious and awake at night as Cora Sledge, the 'heroine' of Leslie Larson's great new novel. Her life is huge, and tragic, and comic, and stalwart, and her voice is astonishing. How does Larson know these things, especially the things we're all afraid of, that we'll end up helpless, powerless, loveless, after such lives we think we're living? Read this novel to see redemption."
—Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon and A Million Nightingales

“Meet pill-popping, slovenly, sharp-tongued Cora Sledge, all three-hundred pounds and eighty-two years of her. Be prepared for surprises at every turn, from the moment her children shove her out of her home and into Palisades, a cinder-block warehouse for the aged. There, love, skullduggery, and heartbreak await Cora and finally lead her to a well-lighted path. In BREAKING OUT OF BEDLAM, Leslie Larson gives us high hilarity and deep tenderness, allowing neither to rob the other. In Cora Sledge, she gives us a woman who is brave enough to look closely at the sum of all her years and to learn new love from old sorrows.”
—Kate Maloy, author of Every Last Cuckoo


From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

It is laugh out loud enjoyment.
Maddie
I love the main character of Dora, her quirky and true insights, her voice.
Secret Admirer
This was a funny fast paced book that kept me turning the pages!
Pamela D. Dose

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
At eighty-two, Cora Sledge's worst nightmare has come true. Obese, drug-addled and cantankerous, Cora's rabid independence is struck a fatal blow when her three adult children descend upon her filthy house, discovering a refrigerator filled with moldering food and hidden caches of pills, Cora's lifestyle grown more troubling with each passing year. Cowed by her children's outrage and disgust, Cora is soon ensconced in The Palisades, an assisted living facility that is little more than a concrete bunker for housing the elderly. Institutionalization at its most frightening, Cora's place at The Palisades consists of a small room and bath, the sliding glass door on one wall offering a view of the loading docks and a steady stream of low-paid workers pushing laundry carts back and forth.

But as we learn from the pages of Cora's diary, this is a woman with an indomitable spirit, married at seventeen and hiding a painful secret all the long years of her life. After a few weeks in bed, drugged to insensitivity by the pills she has managed to sneak into the facility, Cora resists the siren call of oblivion as she explores the limitations and conditions at her new home, where "the walkers and wheelchairs make a slow-motion stampede for the dining room" and the halls smell of incontinence and despair. There are few friends here- certainly not her table mate, "Poison Ivy"- but a respiratory therapist offers enough kindness to spark Cora's flagging spirit. Decreasing her drug intake, Cora is inspired to shed the weight as she unburdens her soul of a lifetime of sorrows.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Margarett on February 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From the first page you will be drawn into Cora's life - told from within with searing humor and terror. 82 year old Cora is each of us - and who we could and may be. When she is placed in a 'home' for her own good by her kids - each of whom we also could and may be - her world is turned inside out. In her new home her only friends are a small journal where she begins recording her present fury and secret past - and one of the nurses who dislodges phlegm and dispenses tenderness in equal quantities. You will be giggling and appalled at Cora's stubborn blindness to what is happening around her and her stubborn brilliance as her past and present converge in the very last pages. This is a must read and must share.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jenna Sue on March 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Breaking Out of Bedlam tells the story of Cora Sledge, an obese, pill-popping, crusty 82-year-old woman whose children have just had her put in The Palisades, an assisted living facility where the tenants range from seniors who still take fitness classes to, as Cora puts it, "the droolers." This book could have been so depressing, but it was anything but. It could also have been silly and disrespectful to the elderly...also neither of those things. Instead, it was an engaging look at how - no matter what our age or circumstances - people still crave to have love, excitement and a life worth living.

The book is written as a journal that Cora is writing, and in it she both talks about the day to day happenings at The Palisades and also about her life growing up. There are secrets in both. I found myself unable to put the book down wondering what was going to happen next. I loved several characters, especially a male nurse she befriends. A scene where Cora - who because of her age and weight can't walk very far - decides to go to the other side of the facility to find a man she's romantically interested in was unforgettable in the way the author made a trek across a building seem like a trip across the desert.

I'm kind of surprised this book isn't getting all the buzz some others are... I hope it catches on because I'd like to see more from this author. I will be recommending it to my book club.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Grandma Moses on March 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I LOVED Cora, the main character. She's outspoken, gutsy, and tells it like it is. The descriptions of the assisted living center where she lives and the characterizations of the other "inmates" there are hilarious. It's not often a writer can make you feel all the highs and lows of her characters, but this author has succeeded.
If you enjoyed "The Help" by katherine Stockett, you will probably enjoy this. Both books have strong main leads who take us to places we may not have encountered. Both have right-on dialects and compelling plot lines. They're not great literature, but both books grab your heart immediately and end way before you're ready to leave.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Julia McDonough on June 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Recently I read something about the TV series, "The Golden Girls" that said that even though the characters were getting older, the little girls, teenagers, and
young women they used to be were still inside them. This is also true for Cora Sledge.

Cora was born in 1914 and grew up in rural Missouri. She fell for a town boy, became a "girl in trouble," and married a man she didn't love to give the baby a father and avoid a life of shame. Fast forward 65 years, and Cora is writing her memoirs from the nursing home where she was banished by her adult children to save her from herself. I felt much compassion for Cora and enjoyed her old-fashioned "hillbilly" voice - she "pined" for her dog, Lulu (which is why I take my dogs to visit the elderly).

BREAKING OUT OF BEDLAM deals with some serious topics - unwanted pregnancy, obesity, prescription drug and nicotine addiction, homosexuality, racism, and the dark side of aging - without being negative or depressing. Although Cora endured enough soul pain for several lifetimes, the faith of her childhood, the spirit of her young womanhood, and the new wisdom of her old age allowed her to triumph at the end. I hated to close the book on her.
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More About the Author


The New York Times called Leslie Larson's second novel, Breaking Out of Bedlam, "A kick." Publishers Weekly said, "Delightful...Plenty of heart and humor." And the San Francisco Chronicle called it "A good read: funny, sad and easy." Leslie's critically acclaimed first novel, Slipstream, was a BookSense Notable Book, a Target Breakout Book, winner of the Astraea Award for Fiction, and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Her work has appeared in Faultline, the East Bay Express, Writer magazine, and the Women's Review of Books, among other publications. She has taught writing at the Macondo Writers Workshop, San Diego Writers Ink, and Book Passage.

Leslie lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Visit her website: www.LeslieLarson.com

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Breaking Out of Bedlam: A Novel
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