Respect for his elders, Southern charm, an ear for authentic dialogue, and a great sense of humor are Clyde Edgerton's trademarks. Lunch at the Piccadilly
is no exception. Lil Olive, lively octogenarian, fetches up at the Rosehaven Convalescent Center after a bad fall, but she is not ready to pack it in. Instead, she befriends several of her peers, plans outings which she executes by stealing a car she insists is hers, and starts laying bets on whether or not Clara removes her glass eye at night.
The center of the novel is Lil's middle-aged, never married nephew Carl. It has fallen to him to look after the women in his family: first his mother, then his Aunt Sarah and now Aunt Lil. He is the soul of patience and kindness, looking after Lil's needs, visiting her frequently and taking the ladies to lunch. He befriends L. Ray Flowers, a firebrand preacher who, because of an injury, is temporarily marooned at the Center. Flowers has an idea: "We are about to pronounce the grand fact that nursing homes and churches all across this land must become interchangeable... We need not two institutions... We need one. And it shall be called Nurches of America, Chursing Homes of the United States." In addition to his grandiose idea, he writes music and encourages Carl to take up the bass guitar again. Carl starts writing lyrics for L. Ray's music and, for a short while, preaching and singing rock the porch at Rosehaven. Inevitably, time and the past catch up with Lil and L. Ray, but not before Carl has found a new creative outlet that gives him some purpose in life other than selling awnings.
Edgerton's Raney and Walking Across Egypt are better novels, with tighter plots and more fully realized characters, but Lunch at the Piccadilly is unmistakably Edgerton, and that's not bad. --Valerie Ryan
From Publishers Weekly
Edgerton writes with warmth about the plight of the elderly in his latest, an ensemble portrait that tracks the ups and downs of a group of nursing home residents at the Rosehaven Convalescent Center. The central figure is contractor Carl Turnage, who devotes most of his time to caring for his dotty, eccentric aunt, Lil Olive, after a fall puts her in convalescent care. The friendly, rambunctious Lil quickly strikes up several friendships at the home, organizing a series of cute but ill-advised adventures as the various patients battle to keep their driving rights and other privileges. Turnage, meanwhile, becomes involved in an adventure of his own with another resident, a flamboyant preacher-cum-musician named L. Ray Flowers who talks him into playing bass in a duo after he sets some of Turnage's lyrics to music. Edgerton hits the mark with his quirky characterizations, and his sympathy for his subjects is evident as they struggle to retain their dignity through their twilight years. Much of the humor is stuffy and outdated, and the comic material involving elderly driving is off-key. But Edgerton compensates with a strong finish: Lil is suddenly hospitalized, and Turnage is forced to come to terms with her mortality, even as a lurid incident involving Flowers's flagrant behavior with the female residents forces another crisis on him. This underplotted novel isn't one of Edgerton's best efforts, but it remains a solid, touching treatment of a neglected subject.
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