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

4.3 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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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.
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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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,071,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMEVINE 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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book can hit close to home as it covers some difficult but common life experiences, so it is not always light reading. But there is comic relief, her descriptions of people can be funny and inventive. And in the end you are rooting for Cora to prevail. It is an engaging, well-told story.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having been an employee in a couple of extended care facilities, I laughed at the author's portrayal of what goes on in these facilities. Very much an authentic story. Several friends also have read this book, and laughed as much as I did.
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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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