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The Early Word: New Fiction for the Week of November 8, 2010

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As we ramp up to the holidays, it gets too much to feature the high quantities of both fiction and nonfiction in the same column. So truth will have to serve double duty by having also to be a stranger to fiction right now.

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey
by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley’s genre-bending talents has taken him from science-fiction to mysteries, though he’s perhaps best-known for his 1940s and ‘50s noir crime novels starring the cool and multifaceted detective Easy Rawlins. The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is another ambitious departure, a intensely-felt, provocative, and often literary reflection on aging, memory, family, loss, and love.

Ninety-one-year-old Ptolemy Grey is an African American living alone in violent South Central L.A.  In poor health and suffering from dementia, largely forgotten by his extended family, he can’t remember to eat, can’t remember much of anything as sinks deeper into scattered memories of a past marked by racism, lynching, poverty, and longing for his long-dead wife. And he’s satisfied to pass the rest of his days with only his snippets of reminiscences for company. Until, at his grandnephew’s funeral, he meets Robyn, a beautiful, resourceful 17-year-old friend of the family, who takes him through a mental and emotional sea change. As Robyn sees to Ptolemy’s psychological needs, she not only awakens his aspiration for the lucidity he once had, her challenges also push Ptolemy to make a life-changing decision.

It’s a trade-off, though, akin to being given a second shot at life at the price of a hastened death, as her angelic interventions include introducing Ptolemy to a doctor/devil who is able to give our protagonist a period of mental clarity – if he chooses not to live to see 92.

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is an enticing and ultimately life-affirming one, conveyed in an aptly expressive and gritty language, and couched in the author’s trademark humor and narrative mastery. Mosley’s depiction of the indignities of old age is affecting, while Ptolemy’s grace and integrity make for a nuanced characterization.

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A Dead Man’s Tale (Charlie Moon Series #15)
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A Stranger in Mayfair (Charles Lenox Mysteries)

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Life Times: Stories, 1952-2007
by Nadine Gordimer

Lord of Misrule
by Jaimy Gordon

The Box: Tales from the Darkroom
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Full Dark, No Stars
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Identity Man
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Trio of Sorcery
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Doctor Who: Coming of the Terraphiles
by Michael Moorcock

The Distant Hours
by Kate Morton 1439152780

The Hidden
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Outwitting Trolls (Brady Coyne Series #25)
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Brava, Valentine
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40: A Doonesbury Retrospective
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The Weight
by Andrew Vachss

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