Last Bus to Coffeeville by J. Paul Henderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
'Nancy Skidmore has Alzheimer's and Eugene Chaney III once more a purpose in life - to end hers. When the moment to take Nancy to her desired death in Coffeeville arrives, however, she is unexpectedly admitted to the secure unit of a nursing home, and to fulfil her wishes Chaney has now to call upon the help of his two remaining friends - Bob Crenshaw, a man who has been officially dead for forty years, and Jack Guravitch, a disgraced weatherman in the throes of a mid-life crisis. Together they kidnap Nancy and journey to Mississippi in a tour bus stolen from Paul McCartney, and are joined on the way by Eric, a young orphan boy searching for lost family - an exotic dancer who once tore two pages of Leviticus from his father's bible. Last Bus to Coffeeville is a chronicle of lives that have jumped the tracks, a funny story about sad things, and a tale of endings and new beginnings.'
An unusual book and one I probably wouldn't have chosen to read just because I thought it would be quite depressing and morbid given the whole point of the story was to assist a woman suffering from dementia to end her life. Nancy and Eugene (Doc) are college sweethearts and when Nancy reveals she may carry a hereditary gene for Alzheimer's she makes Eugene promise that whatever happens he will help her when the time comes to end her life.
The first half of the book concentrates on Nancy, Gene and Bob (their friend) and their time at University in 1960's America. We discover the real and warm relationship that binds the friends together and learn a little about American history along the way particularly with respect to racism during this period. The characters were likeable and genuine and this first part of the book was enjoyable. The second half of the book seemed to introduce so many characters that it was hard to keep up with who they were and why it was necessary for the author to go into their characters in such depth.
This second half of the book seemed to drag on a bit for me, all the characters were important on the journey to Coffeeville but so much time was spent giving background information on the secondary characters that the main characters and the actual journey felt a bit neglected. I found myself looking up the map on the inside of the cover to see where they were and how much longer we had to go before we got to the point of the story and arrived in Coffeeville.
It was sad and in parts very moving especially the end although it was predictable it was touching and sensitive but I felt that the book could have been a lot shorter and that the climax of the book appeared to be hurried given that the author had given so much time to secondary character background information that spanned several chapters.
I am glad I read the book as it was not something I would have picked out to read but I felt it was a bit too long however it had great moments of comedy which lifted the mood of what could have been a very depressing novel and had some warm and unusual friendships giving it an overall feel good factor.
Summing up I did enjoy the book, I was a bit confused with so many characters and at one point almost lost my way but having persevered this was an enjoyable novel but not a great one for me.
I would give this novel a 3.5 score, rounded up to 4 for Goodreads - enjoyed it but didn't love it.
I would like to thank the publisher for sending me this copy in exchange for a honest review.