Ever since I read Okimoto's The Love Ceiling, I've been anticipating another wonderful novel from her. That's why I was thrilled to win Walter's Muse in the contest on Margot's Joyfully Retired blog.
This new story is everything I had expected and more. Okimoto's main character, Maggie, is a retired elementary school librarian. She lives on Vashon Island in Puget Sound where she expected to have a calm summer alone while taking stock of her life and deciding what kind of future she would like to pursue. Calm is anything but what her summer actually becomes.
First there is a huge windstorm in which her neighbor, Walter, is injured. He's a children's book writer and he lives with his dog, Bill Bailey, who will only come when Walter sings the old song, "Won't you come home, Bill Bailey?" When Walter must go to the hospital, Bill Bailey becomes a problem for Maggie to deal with.
Then there is Maggie's ditzy little sister, the drama queen, who has just separated from the latest in a series of millionaires she has married. She comes to Maggie bringing a Siamese cat that Maggie detests from the beginning. But on the other hand there are her friends. Martha Jane, a ninety-something wise and funny lady, and Howie and Mark, a gay couple. And when her world gets to be too much, Maggie goes kayaking alone to sort things out.
I love Maggie. She's intelligent and feisty and caring. She's patient when Martha Jane forgets things, and she doesn't hesitate to plunge right in to help someone. I've found dogs always know who to trust, and Bill Bailey loves Maggie too. Maggie butts up against serious issues in this story. There are light moments for sure, but the issues she confronts are life-changing ones. In other words, lots of meat but leavened with humor. In all, a very satisfying story.
I do hope you'll read this one. I recommend Jean Davies Okimoto wholeheartedly.