Book Review: The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino

Book Review: The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino (2020)  4 Stars ****

Beautifully written, charming, engaging, whimsical, the reader often needs to suspend belief to willingly step into this world within a world within a world. Realistic? Sometimes. Believable? Always! The author has created a story with characters who love and support one another through the most trying time of their lives. Our hearts accept the sorrows and misgivings that our left-brained heads dismiss. Set in Bar Harbor, Maine during the 1990s, we meet Cecibel (the Muse), Alfonse (the celebrity author) and a cast of characters right out of a Hollywood movie. These characters draw one another out, ignore limitations and flaws, encourage and support, and give unconditional love during a time of great vulnerability. Accepting each other’s quirks and checkered pasts, this retirement home is a place of positivity and love. No need to apologize for being you. It is a place to blossom and create, to cooperate and respect, to allow and accept.

Young, beautiful Cecibel works as an orderly. Half of her face is horribly disfigured by fire, so she uses her hair to keep that part of herself hidden from the world. Elderly, larger than life author Alfonse, comes to this special place to live out the short time left of his life. We meet famous authors Olivia and Raymond, editor Judith, social misfits, orderlies Sal and Finlay, and kind, welcoming director Dr. Kintz, who conspire to make one another happy in this world within a world.

The acclaimed authors decide to write a book set in New Jersey of the 1950s where each one adds a chapter based on what’s already been written, thereby changing the flow of events so the next alternate writer must re-think the plot to keep the story going. Sub-plot characters Cecily, Aldo, Enzo and Tressa plot, scheme, and lie to achieve their ends and maintain their dreams. As in real life, this love triangle, a metaphor for the  authors’ lives, twists and turns as each creator (author) envisions a different outcome, but finds themselves at a loss to demand that the other authors abide by their personal vision. As in real life, someone always comes along to throw a wrench in the works, changing the outcome, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. This cooperative effort gives each one a reason to get up in the morning. The whole is equal to the sum of its parts. The result is bigger and better, different from what was originally envisioned, but richer for the contributions of each influencer.

Authors struggle to make the abstract real—to communicate the truth with its nuances and emotions. This is the truth about writers as expressed by the author through Alfonse’s voice, “He couldn’t have written the magic of these moments, not if given another century to try. Life could never be contained by words. It could only be expressed to the best of one’s ability, in the hopes of capturing a tiny spark and giving it away.”

In the end, literally and figuratively, Cecibel opens herself to love and life, no longer hiding behind her hair. Alfonse rewards Cecibel, whose saga has evolved into an unforeseen dimension, with personal wealth. Lives are lived in dignity.

My only problem with this book for me, is the ambiguous ending of the love triangle subplot where Tressa brings her niece to the port to meet Aldo’s ship. I hate open-ended conclusions!!! I can’t rant and rave too much without plot spoilers, so I will stop here.

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at elainewrites@earthlink.net

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2020

 

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Saturday, March 14, 2020- Barnes & Noble, Massapequa, NY 12:00-4:00pm

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