So I Can Find It Again

The author posted this on my Facebook timeline yesterday, but I wanted it here, where I can easily find it again. I wish I could put ALL my (good!) reviews here, but that would be obnoxious. Modesty may be for suckers, but obnoxious is as obnoxious does, right? 😉

Beyond The Cover Review

Having read fantasy and romance from DeFino, I wondered how a straight up fiction novel of hers would be. I know that DeFino dislikes being pigeon holed into genres since she sees so many books falling into more than one. Which is exactly the case with The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers. In fact, her straight up fiction book has both romance and fantasy neatly inserted within its pages.

Set in, yes, (you guessed it), Bar Harbor at, yes, (you’re right again), a retirement home for aging writers, DeFino quickly introduces a cast of diverse and thoroughly developed characters. Of the writers, there is Alfonse, a sort of elderly Dos Equis man, the most famous of the authors. Then, there is Olivia, his ex-lover and quick-witted marijuana smoker; Judi, the group stenographer who laments the realization of her increasing dementia, and Switch, the taciturn, good hearted spoil sport. On the employee side, there is Dr. Kintz, kind and flustered, as he tries to manage these aging autocrats as well as his trove of damaged employees. And, Cecibel, the physically marred orderly who becomes Alfonse’s muse; Sal, the massive black nurse who moonlights as Wispy Flicker, the drag queen; and, Fin, the convicted murderer. Yep, I have that right.

As his last hurrah, inspired by Cecibel, Alfonse begins writing his final novel. It becomes a group project as the authors each take their turns adding to the story. How it evolves and ends and how all these characters interact with one another is part of this story’s magic. And, true to her roots, DeFino works in bits of romance and fantasy. There is a dream like quality to the relationship between Alfonse and Cecibel which goes well beyond patient and caregiver. At first, I was a little unnerved by the sensuality between these two, but DeFino’s writing simply exposes love that exists in places we often fail to look. And, also, who’s to judge what’s appropriate when it comes to love better than the lovers themselves?

DeFino’s timing between the story unfolding at the retirement home and the one that the authors are writing is pitch perfect. Just as you’re about to reach the cathartic moments in each story, she switches you to the other such that you have to keep reading to find out what happened in the previous plot line.

DeFino’s “jump” to fiction is seamless because it really wasn’t a jump at all. She brings together the best of her different story telling techniques to yield a lovely book that addresses dark issues but leaves the reader feeling hopeful and filled with love.

The retirement home for aging writers is a figment of DeFino’s imagination but I can picture it perfectly and hope that maybe, at some point in the future, there might actually be such a place.

Published: 2018
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Elizabeth’s rating: 4 stars

BarHarbor_PB_Final

Coming June 12, 2018

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Friday the 13th

“It’s marked as deceased. No one can do anything with it.”

Those words, overheard just now, they

hurt. Sorrow welled up and

out of my throat.

I covered my face so

my husband wouldn’t hear, wouldn’t

know, because those words hadn’t hit him

The way they hit me.

 

Two nights ago, a phone call from Texas:

“I’m calling for Christofer J. DeFino,

About a car he just asked about online.”

“He’s gone three years now. It couldn’t have been him.”

“I’m sorry, so sorry.”

My husband said it was our boy pulling a prank, letting us know

he’s still around to do so. I feared someone using

his name,

his identity.

That’s where we are, now. Him and me,

He and I,

Us.

“It’s marked as deceased. No one can do anything with it.”

Social Security, moments ago, assured my husband on the phone.

Upstairs, writing at my computer, I broke

into silent tears. He’ll read this and

He’ll know, silent will no longer

be silent.

They’re here, on this page, screaming.

~TLD

images

 

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Boxes, Needles, and Dust

We sold the house. Move date is nebulously the first week in August. The new owner wants to move in here August 15. Much packing has been in the works. The dust in a well-kept house makes me shudder to think about how it would have been had I been less diligent about it. Boxes and boxes and stuff and stuff and donations and donations. I am wildly, brutally purging, and still I have too much stuff.

I put off doing Chris’ room (aka, Frank’s den, aka, the hoarding room) for as long as possible. The house is as packed up as it can be while we’re still living in it. It was time. All the things I put in the closet of that room-waiting (the Curaleaf Tshirt, the weightlifting trophies, the cards and notebooks and poetry and equations) needed to be packed away.

We bought bins. (Bins. My son’s life condensed into bins.) That alone is enough to make the lump rise in my throat, the tears sting the back of my eyes. I tried not to look through things as I packed them away. (The marvel of those pages of equations that meant something to him. To other minds that work like his.) I put on his shirt and wrapped up in a sheetboth still Chris scented. I cried, and I put them away. I grabbed his gym bag, that sweaty, battered gym bag, and put it in last.

Two needles fell out.

The fury. The fury. At him for doing what he did. At myself for not seeing what I should have seen, knowing what I should have known. Please don’t tell me I couldn’t have, or that it wouldn’t have mattered. Logic has no say in anything sometimes. Today, I know he was always going to be a step ahead of me. Today, I know it might not have mattered then, and probably wouldn’t have in the long run. But those needles fell out of his bag, and the fury rose and rose and rose, accompanied by its best pal, guilt, followed behind by the soul-ripping sorrow that’s always going to be lurking inside me, waiting for an opportunity to stretch and claw its way out.

Its all packed away. The brilliance and the scents and the memories, good and bad. I considered keeping those needles, a morbid thing to consider. I snapped off the tips. I bent them in half. I threw them into the firepit and watched them burn.

We’re moving. A new phase in life, begun the day he died (the day he fell, the day he first used, the day he broke his ankle, his spirit) is well and truly on. I hope this log house on the river, in the woods, this house I’ve dreamed of as long as I can remember, gets to be what it deserves to be in my memory. Only leaving it is going to let that happen. I want to remember all the good times we had here, the beauty of this place, the peace and the love. Once the shadows are no longer hovering every day, I think it can be.

I suppose we’ll see soon enough.

 

grief

Melancholy by Albert György in Geneva, Switzerland

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The Maine Edge

The Maine Edge is an online news outlet, in their words: Successfully targeting a younger, professional and more savvy demographic than the traditional newspaper, while also catering to the need for a lifestyle, cultural and entertainment-based publication across all demographics in the greater Bangor market, The Maine Edge has redefined the role of what a newspaper can, and should be.

They did a feature on my book that, quite honestly, made me cry yesterday. Bad? No. It was that good. It’s the kind of review I’ll take out years from now to bask in the glory days, perhaps like Olivia or Alfonse did, in the Pen.

Posted here in its entirety:

Assisted Living for Authors: The Bare Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses)

Assisted living for authors - 'The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses)'

There’s a big difference between literary fame and literary greatness.

There are plenty of writers who are great without being famous and more than a few who are famous without being great. A very specific confluence of circumstances is required for an author to achieve both. But even the greatest, most famous writers come to the end of their story.

Terri-Lynne DeFino’s novel “The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses)” (William Morrow, $15.99) takes a speculative look at what that ending might look like, creating a vividly detailed place where literary giants might spend their final days, swapping stories and generally accepting that the heady heights of their younger days are permanently behind them.

In the late 1990s, Cecibel is an orderly at the Bar Harbor Home for the Elderly, a retirement home set up by literary legend Cornelius Traegar in an attempt to give his fellow wordsmiths a place uniquely their own in which to spend their twilight years. Despite the physical and emotional scarring, Cecibel is a beloved part of the community; the many writers and editors find her to be both a competent caregiver and fine company.

But Cecibel is thrown for a loop when a new resident arrives at the home (nicknamed “the Pen” for obvious reasons). Alfonse Carducci is a true giant in the world of letters, one of the most decorated authors of his generation and the most famous resident ever to move into the Pen. He’s also Cecibel’s all-time favorite writer – one to whom she has been devoted for most of her life.

Carducci is very much at the end of the line when he arrives, but being in the presence of old friends like Olivia Peppernell, a former peer (and lover) helps a little. Still, it’s the friendship that blooms between him and Cecibel that truly reinvigorates him. Yes, he is old and tired, but as he spends more and more time with the lovely, damaged orderly, the itch to create comes back.

And he’s not the only one.

Doors long thought forever closed begin to creak open once again, letting loose the words and emotions and stories – truthful and fictional (and sometimes both). Some are inspired to embrace a future they once believed did not include them, while others begin to consider letting go of pasts that haunt them. And at the center of it all is the unlikely friendship between a broken young woman and a sick and aging legend.

It’s interesting to consider what happens to writers when their stretch in the sun finally passes by. Even the greatest of the great will eventually fade into the shadows. “The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers” offers a charming, compelling glimpse at what might happen to such luminaries.

The writers who populate the Pen display precisely the sort of quick and acerbic wit that you would expect to get from aging wordsmiths. These are people who defined and redefined literature for their generation – that power doesn’t just vanish when you reach a certain age. The jokes and jibes are well-crafted and genuine, creating a sense of reality that informs the dialogue.

The central figures – Cecibel and Alfonse – serve as dual focal points for the narrative, providing the polestars by which the story is navigated. The quiet complexity of Cecibel, the constant avoidance of certain uncomfortable truths … she’s fascinating. Meanwhile, Alfonse hides behind a façade of bombast and bluster, all the while uncomfortably coming to terms with the looming specter of his own mortality. His works might be immortal, but he himself is not.

(It’s at this point where the story-within-the-story needs to be addressed. Over the course of this novel, a new story begins to take shape; said story is shared with the reader intermittently throughout the course of the book. We can talk about how delightfully meta it is to have a work in progress being written by the writers who are characters in a book about writers – and it really is – but the truth is that what could have been a gimmicky device actually turns into an engaging tale in its own right. No need to discuss the specifics – who writes it, what it’s about, that sort of thing. Just know that it’s very good and a vital part of the larger narrative.)

DeFino has a wonderful ear, finding ways to craft dialogue that feels both true to the characters and true to life – a surprisingly difficult feat with which plenty of otherwise great writers struggle. She builds thoughtful, rich inner lives into her ensemble, as unafraid to point out her characters’ flaws as she is eager to celebrate their merits.

“The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses)” is an ideal summer read, breezy enough to be consumed lightly while still providing narrative and character depth. To paraphrase an old adage, old writers never die – they just fade away. What Terri-Lynne DeFino has done is give us a look at a place to where those writers might fade.

~Allen Adams/The Maine Edge

 

Click here for the actual piece, if you are so inclined.

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As Seen In The Wild

Thanks, everyone who sent me a pic of The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) as seen in the wild. Keep them coming! I’ll add them to the slide show.

 

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Because I REALLY Needed This Today

As tomorrow (Chris D-day) approaches, emotion is precariously close to the surface. Every. Minute. Of. The. Day. The strangest things will set me off. Completely unrelated things. An oriole flying across the front yard. A commercial. My grandson explaining a game neither of us has any idea how to play.

And then, this morning, there was this:

The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and their Muses) is a book set in the latter part of the nineties in a retirement home that is especially for famous writers, editors, publishers etc. The home was dreamt up by two writers, one who has passed and who one has finally come back to the mansion to live out the rest of his days among his contemporaries. In this story we follow a few of the writers, namely Alfonse Carducci and Olivia Peppernell, lovers in the past and good friends now and one of the orderlies named Cecibel who lives on the grounds and is dealing with issues of her own. She forms a camaraderie with them and serves as the muse that ignites their passion for writing again as they deal with the breakdown of their bodies in the aging process.

This book is probably a contender for being one of my favorite books of this year, for sure. I loved everything about it. I loved the writing style, which was elegant and just evoked the feeling I love to get when reading a great piece of literature. There are alternating perspectives all told in the third person and I loved following different bits of the story from each of the characters. UGH THE CHARACTERS…they were so good and I love them all to bits and I just want to gather all of them up and hug them to me forever. This story was beautiful and tragic, comfortable and romantic. These are literally all of the things I felt when I curled up in bed and read this book. It was a gloomy, rainy day out when I read it which was just absolutely perfect. After reading this book I was torn between reading one and writing one.

I really loved that this story was told through our main narrative but also includes the story that our characters are writing interspersed throughout. It was a wonderful thing to be able to experience that alongside of these characters. Ugh I loved this book if you can’t tell and I can’t wait to read it again. As someone who loves to write stories, I enjoyed every single moment where the lives of the aging writers was discussed and I loved reading about them writing. I could go on and on but I won’t, I’ll let you read this book and discover it’s magic yourself. If you love stories about writers and beautiful characters, read this book!! 5 stars from me!

Ms. Nose In A Book (reviewer)

Niagra Falls, Frankie Angel. (If you get the reference, you get a gold star!)

I don’t share all my reviews, but this one? I had to. And I wanted to put it here where I could go back and read it FOREVER!

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A Break From Book News

As mentioned several posts ago, June is a month rife with conflict for me. It started again, this year, with boom and the doom on my horizon. Everything Bar Harbor was was the sublime force holding it back. And because, no matter what I write, I’m a fantasy nerd at heart…

 

LD1DhDq

I’ve kept the Balrog at bay until today.  The actual anniversary of his death isn’t until Friday; no matter what the date, for me, Father’s Day is always going to be Christofer’s last day on the planet. It’s the anniversary of the last chance I had to change everything. The anniversary of my failure to see all I should have seen. The last day my husband, children and I were all together. Forever and ever Amen.

In the time since Chris’ death, things have changed. In my own life, our family life, the world at large. Life goes on, right? There have been some truly extraordinary personal events, from going to Europe for the first time to the entirety of The Bar Harbor etc. book experience; from my daughter and her family moving back to New Milford, to putting the house up for sale. Lording over it all, my Balrog. Like Gandalf, today, I fall.

It’s okay. I need to fall once in a while. I need to feel all the pain of losing my son. It feels strangely good, like pressing on a canker sore. I’m not looking for sympathy (though I’ll always take hugs.) I just needed to get it out of my head, and this is my place to do so. I promised I would. It helps.

This week will be another amazing one, I’m certain. My grands will be here to swim, more Bar Harbor stuff, some dinners with friends. And today, I get to see my brothers and their families, my younger daughter, her boyfriend and their puppy. Of course, my parents. But I’ll still be in the snow with the Balrog, too. Like Gandalf, I’ll find my way out of the dark again. As always wiser, stronger, better able to fight the next time.

 

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Boston Globe

For posterity’s sake…

Write up in The Boston Globe.

“The tall pines, rocky shores, and austere New England landscape of Bar Harbor, Maine, is the setting for Terri-Lynne DeFino’s summery new novel, “The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses)’’ (William Morrow), out this week. The book follows one-time literary legend bad-boy Alfonse Carducci as he makes a final home at a Bar Harbor retirement community populated by the aging literati. There he meets nurse Cecibel Bringer, whose face was badly damaged in an accident. She serves as an unexpected muse to the blocked Carducci, and he lets her regain a sense of the possibility of love. DeFino, who lives in rural New England, has written a beachy book in which the fictional world and the real one blend and blur, and about the ways in which age doesn’t limit our ability to connect, and the opportunities to be found when one stays open being inspired.”

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TLC Book Tour

Sorry to inundate with ME, ME, ME! But it is release day after all. And, really, this is–once again–so I can go back and bask. Or pull quotes from reviews. 🙂 Let’s hope they’re all good ones!

TLC Book Tour

Instagram Features

Tuesday, June 12th: Instagram: @theloudlibrarylady

Wednesday, June 13th: Instagram: @oddandbookish

Thursday, June 14th: Instagram: @notthepathtonarnia

Friday, June 15th: Instagram: @theliterarybirds

Saturday, June 16th: Instagram: @bookishconnoisseur

Sunday, June 17th: Instagram: @hollyslittlebookreviews

Monday, June 18th: Instagram: @ladyofthelibrary

Review Stops

Tuesday, June 12th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, June 13th: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, June 14th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, June 15th: 5 Minutes For Books

Monday, June 18th: Eliot’s Eats

Tuesday, June 19th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, June 20th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Thursday, June 21st: From the TBR Pile

Monday, June 25th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, June 26th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, June 28th: Literary Quicksand

BarHarbor_PB_Final

Coming June 12, 2018

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NJ.com

I posted this on Facebook last weekend, but I need to put it here so I can go back someday and bask in it.

NJ.com loved THE BAR HARBOR RETIREMENT HOME FOR FAMOUS WRITERS (And Their Muses.) Yay!

review here–>NJ.com

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