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The Last Odd Day    by Lynne Hinton order for
Last Odd Day
by Lynne Hinton
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Jean Witherspoon is content with her life. She's not exactly happy, but being happy would mean she would also have to suffer pain. And Jean put her painful experiences away a long time ago, closing herself off to deeper emotions.

Jean was born to a Cherokee mother and a blind father, both of whom died before she was fifteen. She carries that grief inside, but chooses to focus on her nearly fifty year marriage to her husband O.T. It is not without heartache. For the past seventeen months, O.T. has been living in a nursing home, after a stroke and broken hip. Jean visits daily, helping O.T. with eating, and savoring the moments of clarity when they can converse. One day however, Jean's tidy world is turned upside down when she finds out that a woman has been visiting O.T., claiming to be his daughter. After O.T. dies, Jean learns more than she ever imagined possible about this woman, about herself, and about the missing pieces of her relationship with her husband.

This is a true gem. It's difficult to convey the depth of raw emotion conveyed in the writing without making it seem too maudlin, which it definitely is not. Lynne Hinton has a beautiful way of communicating exactly what her characters are thinking and feeling, without wasting a single word. The reader feels a part of the story, experiencing everything along with the protagonists. Most readers will relate to Jean on some level. The grief and loss she has undergone has caused her to close herself off. When she finally makes a breakthrough, she handles herself with a surprising grace. What takes place in the novel will resonate with readers and cause them to examine their own lives.

I have read most of Lynne Hinton's other books and found The Last Odd Day her best to date. She has a gift for depicting female friendships in a realistic way, and showing their growth and development even in light of hardship. Although this is a fairly short novel, it's not one to be consumed in a quick gulp, but rather to be savored and pondered.

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