A light meditation on grief, aging and newspapers – Concord Monitor

Posted: December 21, 2020 at 2:58 am

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Its easy to ascertain right away that Love in the Late Edition was written by a journalist. Never mind that the novel was literally written by an ex-newsman former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette deputy editorial page editor and columnist Reg Henry, to be exact who made its protagonist a retired Pittsburgh reporter as well.

Anyone familiar with the rhythms of a newspaper article will identify the matter-of-fact way Henry lays out the story of Alistair Brown, a new resident of a luxurious California retirement home whose wife dies on their first night at the Estate, forcing him to find new meaning while working through his grief.

The novel is laid out as a journal Alistair put together as a means of capturing his journey from his lowest point back to a life full of laughter and love. While structurally sound, most of Love in the Late Edition reads like a reporters measured accounting of the events as they unfolded which while probably purposeful doesnt always translate well to prose.

Alistair is clearly a semi-biographical creation by Henry. Both are older gentlemen born in Australia who moved to the United States and pursued a media career in both California and Pittsburgh. Beyond that, the community of wacky retirees that Henry concocted displays an impressive prowess for world-building.

Despite his initial desire to be left alone to wallow in despair, Alistair is surrounded by colorful characters who slowly raise his spirits. He initially misjudges many of them mostly the women as being old-folks stereotypes, but he is proven wrong almost every time and eventually is forced to admit, There are no senior citizens, just citizens who may be old.

Its worth mentioning that Love in the Late Edition is coming out during a global pandemic during which many young, healthy people have seemed unconcerned by how their behavior can affect this particularly vulnerable population. As a result, Henrys portrayal of a group of capable, compassionate, recognizably human elderly people is especially refreshing and timely.

The fun is slightly hamstrung, though, by Henrys choice to have all the proceedings told from Alistairs point of view. Theres nothing wrong with a gruff, no-nonsense lead character, and Alistair is well-developed in that regard. But a side effect of having him as the narrator is that most of the characters voices sound like his, rather than the distinctive menagerie Henry must have envisioned and came so close to realizing.

Theres a good chance that pervasive voice is also Henrys, as the write what you know ethos he clearly employed here trickles down into the activity Alistair throws himself into as he tries to distract himself from his inner pain: turning the Estates oft-forgotten newsletter into a respectable publication.

The bulk of the plot involves Alistair and his ragtag crew of geriatric journos ruffling feathers with their reporting, particularly when the Estate changes ownership to someone who clearly doesnt have the residents best interests at heart. Its not exactly Spotlight in terms of its celebration of the free presss power, but its clearly Henrys ode to his previous profession.

Theres also a romantic element at play as Alistair navigates his attraction to Linda, the Estates librarian, and how he could possibly pursue her even with his late wife constantly on his mind. Their interactions are quite sweet and, though this subplot does fall into some well-worn rom-com clichs, provide some much-needed warmth to help melt Alistairs sometimes chilly exterior.

At one point, Linda describes Alistair so accurately it hurts: I think, Alistair, you have become a newspaper yourself. Full of information, full of turns of phrase, full of jokes and tragedy, full of life.

Thats the kind of clever sentimentality Love in the Late Edition seems to be striving for and, for the most part, succeeds in provoking. It may read at times like a newspaper, but more like one from a pre-internet era that would generally soothe the senses, not overwhelm them.

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A light meditation on grief, aging and newspapers - Concord Monitor

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December 21st, 2020 at 2:58 am

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