Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino

In The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino, a dying writer moves into a retirement home for writers, a converted mansion casually known as "The Pen". When the writer meets a young orderly named Cecibel, he's inspired to write one last story and joined in the project by two other writers who reside at the home.

Half of Cecibel's face is badly damaged from an accident. She hides the "monster" side from view and keeps to herself. But, when she meets Alphonse and becomes his muse, he inspires her, as well. Slowly, Cecibel's courage and willingness to expose her scars grows as Alphonse is writing his final words and taking his last breaths. Will Cecibel finally learn to face the world and take a chance on love?

Interspersed with the main story about the authors in the retirement home are the chapters of the book being written, a story of star-crossed young lovers living in the post-WWII era. She is the daughter of a powerful man, her marriage pre-arranged at the age of 12. He is one of two survivors of a terrible accident, separated from the only family he knows. They promise to love each other forever; but, when he joins the military and tragedy forces him to cut off communication, will she wait for him or marry the man to whom she's promised?

Recommended but not a favorite - I liked Cecibel's story and growth and there were times I was so completely swept into the story within the story (the one being written by Alphonse, et al.) that I would forget it was a second story within the book and then find it jarring when the tale of the retirement home resumed. One of the main things I disliked about both stories was the fact that there was a lot of lust and sex, little genuine affection and love. That bothered me because I like reading about relationships that begin with mutual attraction but grow into something deeper. Even Cecibel's story, which is the loveliest part, by far, felt like it was missing a little something, although it was definitely the most satisfying and I thought the ending was slightly far-fetched, yet gratifying.

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  1. Well, first of all, I adore the cover of this book but that being said, I don’t know if I’d read it. I just finished a book that had stories with in the story and it drove me nuts.

    1. Yeah, that particular conceipt seldom works for me. The same is true of the parallel historical/contemporary fiction in which someone in the present discovers a connection to someone in the past. The problem is that when you have two stories within the same book cover, often one resonates with the reader better than the other -- at least, that's been true of me. It's a very rare book that contains two stories without my favoring one of them over the other.


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