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The Fifth Season Paperback – December, 2000

5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For readers who have struggled with stubborn, aging relatives who refuse the care they need, Robert C.S. Downs's The Fifth Season will trigger waves of recognition. The setting is Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Ted Neely flies in to visit his parents at their oceanfront condo, the place they bought when they reached retirement years ago, when they could enjoy the community of seniors, golf games, dinners at the club. Now in their 90s, Able and Lillian no longer leave the house much, and many of their friends have died. Their refrigerator is full of frozen dinners and sour milk. Able, Ted's recalcitrant, penny-pinching father, has just returned from the hospital where doctors removed a cancerous kidney. Lillian is clearly sinking into Alzheimer's, time folding up around her like the night sky.

The Fifth Season is an appropriately slow-moving book, a story of details, worries, and the logistics that must be dealt with before Able and Lillian become completely helpless. Ted fights with his father, gets him to agree to bring a nurse into the home, then his father fires her. Throughout his life, Ted has been overshadowed by his successful and famous brother, and his narration is a gloomy poetry--beautiful and strange, suffused with the loneliness of a neglected child. Puttering around the spare bedroom while his parents sleep, he muses, "I feel a weight the likes of which I've never known, as if I'm able to glimpse eternity and it is a yellow room with blue flowered wallpaper and a small, narrow bed." To ease his depression he goes for a walk along the ocean where, "standing at the railing, it's almost a wind, the sound through the palms like knives flying through the night." It is a lovely, bleak image, appropriate to the world this accomplished writer so painstakingly creates. --Emily White --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

When Teddy Neel goes to Fort Lauderdale to care for his 90-year-old mother (partially blind and with Alzheimer's) while his father has surgery for kidney cancer, he confronts not only his parents' struggle with old age but also their complicated emotions as they reconcile the desire for independence with the need for care. His father's unwillingness to relinquish control over his life forces Ted to rethink his entire relationship with his parents and his brother, Benny, who has a gambling problems. Downs (Going Gently) examines this last stage of life in minute detail, highlighting issues like surrendering privacy and the range of emotions children go through in watching their parents decline. Nicely done if not as probing as one might like, this is an optional purchase for most libraries.
-Joshua Cohen, Mid-Hudson Lib. Syst., Poughkeepsie, NY
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press (December 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582431345
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582431345
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,390,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on May 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Robert C.S. Downs is the sort of writer that other writers read to learn how it's done. This book, valuable for all the reasons that other reviewers have noted here, also happens to be the best written new novel I've read in years. I had almost concluded, sadly, that no one was doing this anymore, developing characters so fully human and about whom the reader must have maddeningly mixed feelings. The aged father, Able Neel, is as fully realized a character as any I've encountered, and son Teddy's anger, resentment, pain, and, not incidentally, love for his parents, come through with an emotional potency that is remarkable.The Fifth Season deserves a wide readership. It has much to say, to the casual reader and to any writer looking for a model or for inspiration.
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Format: Hardcover
The Fifth Season eloquently examines one son's attempt to take care of his elderly parents in the face of their harrowing decline. Within hours of visiting his aging parents in Fort Lauderdale, 60 year old Teddy Neel sees that his parents are in a lot worse shape than he imagined. His father, Abel, is in four-point restraints having lost his left kidney to cancer. His mother, Lillian, is largely blind and in the midstages of Alzheimer's. Author Robert Downs brings every character to life with a meticulous prose allowing the reader to witness the love and beauty, the pain and frustration each parent passes through as Able and Lillian pass through the winter of their lives to enter their fifth and eternal season -- and the son who loves them and would spare them any suffering, if he could. The Fifth Season is unflinching, candid, and compelling.
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By A Customer on October 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As more pulp fiction continues to saturate our American cultural life, it is increasingly delightful to find an author who can show us anew the fine art of the novel. This story and its author find a poignant way to touch the reader with exquisite character, image, and emotional tone. We are carried through the story and leave it with an experience that cannot be summarized - it can only be conveyed through each and every word that Downs lays out. This is the true sign of fine art. A very memorable read.
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By A Customer on February 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I recommend this novel to all readers who seek to make sense of their parents' demise. In The Fifth Season, Robert C.S. Downs captures the tragic (and comic) moments that many "adult children" experience as they try to come to grips with their parents' mortality. This is a beautifully written story.
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