three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
51-Mar-Apr-2011
user_rating: 
0

A-The Last Days of Ptolemy GreyWalter Mosley is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including the long-running Easy Rawlins mysteries (Little Scarlet 4 of 5 Stars Selection Sept/Oct 2004 and Cinnamon Kiss 3.5 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2005), the Fearless Jones series (Fear of the Dark 4 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2006), and the more recent Leonid McGill series (The Long Fall 3.5 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2009 and Known to Evil 3.5 of 5 Stars May/June 2010).

The Story: At 91, African American Ptolemy Grey is both physically and mentally frail. The old man lives alone in a squalid South Los Angeles apartment, holding conversations with friends long dead and listening to classical music on public radio. Ptolemy's only companion is his great-nephew Reggie, who shows up occasionally, at his mom's insistence, to check up on him. When Reggie dies from a drive-by shooting, Ptolemy finds himself under the care of 17-year-old family friend, Robyn Small. With her help, Ptolemy undergoes an experimental medical treatment that recovers his memories--but at a very high price.
Riverhead. 288 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9781594487729

Los Angeles Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"[A] daring, beautifully wrought story that incorporates elements of allegory, meditative reflection and the lilt of lyric tragedy. ... The result is an unexpectedly profound novel of the subtle links between memory and identity, of the difference between forgetting and having the past stripped from you, of what it may mean to be lost, first to those around you, then to yourself." Tim Rutten

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"The tale of an aged superhero who performs valiant deeds with the aid of a devoted young sidekick (pointedly named Robyn) may sound like the charming stuff of myth. But Mosley invests his wish-fulfillment fantasy with deeper meaning and higher purpose." Marilyn Stasio

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"The plot, the pure sweetness and believability of this story, comes from the romance that springs up between the 17-year-old girl and the 91-year-old man, as together they create a world where nothing can be stolen, only given, with the limitless generosity of love." Carolyn See

San Antonio Exp-News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Mosley's latest work skews far from his popular gumshoe page turners, but he still unravels a mystery--of two people with the same needs from different stages of life." Vincent T. Davis

Entertainment Weekly 2 of 5 Stars
"A series of bizarre plot twists--including a pot of Confederate gold and a doctor who might be Satan--cloud and blur The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey's story line with a kind of dementia all its own." Darren Franich

Critical Summary

Critics described The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey as a remarkable blend of literary fiction, mystery, and fantasy. Most were moved by this story of a man slowly losing himself to dementia and his friendship with the compassionate and pragmatic Robyn. The only exception came from the Entertainment Weekly reviewer, who found the novel too convoluted and bizarre to be enjoyable. And though Mosley's latest is a pretty big departure from his private detective series featuring Easy Rawlins, the novel stands on its own as an original tale of aging, family, love, and loss.