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Recessional Hardcover – September 27, 1994


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The veteran author's extended exploration of the world of geriatrics is an up and down affair, alternating inspiring episodes with cliche-ridden narratives. Andy Zorn, a young doctor running from a past scandal, has been hired by geriatric mogul John Taggart to revitalize the Palms, a Tampa retirement community that's fallen into a minor malaise of both profits and morale. Michener sets up his usual labyrinthine sprawl of secondary characters, but what's missing is the unique sense of place that's driven his best works in the past. This time, Michener applies his research to the ravages of old age that plague the Palms' population, but the level of detail often seems unnecessary for the story he's telling. Some episodes and characters are touching: the tale of a seemingly mismatched couple in which the husband cares for the wife after she contracts Alzheimer's; a series of stories about four elder statesmen in the home who conspire to build and fly an airplane; and the saga of a widow who must make some difficult decisions after a biopsy for breast cancer. On the negative side, the romantic subplot between Zorn and a handicapped woman whom he rescues after a car accident reads like fodder for a bad TV movie; the doctor's efforts to provide care for an AIDS patient outside the home have similar problems with realism-the worst offense being a series of passages told from the perspective of a rattlesnake. It's obvious that Michener, who turns 87 this year, finds his subject engaging-but there's not quite enough inspiration here to place this with his top-shelf work. Major ad/promo; Random House Audiobook.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Unjust malpractice suits have driven Andy Zorn, M.D., from obstetrics, and he begins a new life as director of a retirement community, The Palms, more than a thousand miles away from his Chicago home. The Palms offers well-off retirees comfortable apartments as well as nursing home and hospice facilities if the need arises. Andy's main job is to turn this place into a moneymaking proposition for its wealthy owner. Predictably, the staff and most of the residents have a story to tell. This novel shows Michener at his worst: long-winded and stultifying. Implausible characters abound, and the background research is shallow at best. In the case of a resident who discovers she has breast cancer, the author's simplistic explanation is misleading. Nevertheless, the author is well known, and major publicity will result in plenty of demand. Buy accordingly.
--Patricia Altner, Dept. of Defense Lib., Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 484 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (September 27, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067943612X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679436126
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #549,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By kone TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 1, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
James A. Michener must be anticipating his own retirement in this book as he writes a compelling and interesting novel about a retirement facility in Florida. What to most might be a very boring subject, Michener once again enlivens his characters and makes them so interesting that the book is a real page-turner. In our contemporary society, the aged are packed away into retirement homes and forgotten. In Michener's view, the elderly live interesting lives, have meaning and purpose, and are thinking, feeling people. Particularly facinating is the attempt of four of the elderly men who attempt to build and fly an experimental aircraft!
Michener invites the reader to ponder the intricate problem of medical science extending human life, and when life ceases to be meaningful. In 2003, the media was buzzing with the attempt by a husband to end the life of his brain damaged wife in a nursing home. Michener has stong opinions on this subject and appears to be a prophet in dealing with a topic that only recently came to the american public's attention.
This is perhaps Michener's last great novel. I believe the reader will find it engaging and worthwhile. Although it is not as superb as "Texas", "Centennial", or "The Source", Michener will not disappoint you in "Recessional".
Jim Koenig
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 15, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
While I have read a great number of his other books and enjoyed most of them thoroughly, this book touched me like no others. I have two grandmothers living in similar retirement communities to that in the story and this gave me some great insight and understanding to their lives in there. It felt like a true story based on their lives and those of their friends. I highly recogmend the book although it is certainly not like his other epics.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Axel Berger on December 30, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you enjoy Michener's style at all, you'll find this a good read too. It is true, as others have noticed, that the author may be getting old. Where before, when my first impulse was "nobody talks that way" I could remind myself that English is not my native language and America not my home, in this book many dialogs are clearly contrived. Nevertheless, the thing that matters is how much Michener managed to put into them, and believe me, he still does.
A point noone else commented on: The whole book, from beginning to end, is a royal slagging off of the one profession I despise most. So if you happen to be a lawyer, it may be you will not enjoy the book as much as I did - but especially then I recommend you to read it and try to take it to heart.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leeper on February 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"Recessional" was my introduction into James Michener's writing. This novel is the work of a fine craftsman. Upon reading, you feel that there are no wasted characters or scenes; all are important and work towards making a beautiful canvas for you to enjoy.
In this story a young doctor, Dr. Andy Zorn, is driven from his practice in Chicago by a frivolous lawsuit against him and by his divorce. Mr. Taggert, the owner of a chain of retirement communities, hires Dr. Zorn to manage of his properties, The Palms in Tampa, which is not making a profit. It is at this location that Zorn must rebuild the community and his life.
Of the characters Zorn meets, you feel that you have met them before, but never took the time to know them. For instance, there is Mr. Bixby who seems like just another retiree. One day, someone notices that he is "the" Buzz Bixby of World Series fame many years ago. All the characters, and for the matter all retirees, have had a wealth of experiences which get overlooked when we do not try to understand.
Michener also discusses many issues (as an aside, this was written in the early nineties) such as Alzheimer's, AIDS, euthanasia, and living wills. There are other topics, but these seem to be the most poignant. Throughout these issues, you will never feel that Michener is preaching to you, but you will know how he feels.
I would recommend this book. It is an enjoyable read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 29, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I really love this book - but it's not really anything like other things the author has written. It's just a good story about a topic that many of us are uncomfortable with - growing old. Give this book a try. You may be surpised. I know the I was.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Blaine Greenfield on February 14, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've read many of James Michener's books, but for some reason,
RECESSIONAL had never crossed my path . . . perhaps it had been
because of the subject manager; i.e., life in a Florida retirement
community.

Yet now that I find myself contemplating such a possibility, I
was fortunate to come across a book on tape version of this
tale when in my local library . . . though it was written in 1994, I
still found it very contemporary based on my visits to several
such locales.

RECESSIONAL follows the story of a doctor who becomes
the manager of the Palms . . . I quickly became interested
in his life, as well as in the lives of the memorable characters
he serves who have no intention of "going gracefully" . . . the
subplot, involving a woman whose life seems over when she
is in a terrible accident, was touching . . . that said, I won't tell you
any more for fear I'll ruin the joy you'll have in finding out for
yourself what happens.

The ending is just right, including this line: "We're all
passing--honorably--away" . . . it was delivered with eloquence
by Len Cariou, who did a marvelous job with the entire narration.
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