March 21, 2013

Silver Orphan by Martine Lacombe

**This book was received as a free advanced reader's copy**

I work in elder law. Most specifically, estate planning and trust work. So I work with the elderly quite a bit. This book tells a story much different than the clients I work with though. They all have something they're going to leave behind and someone they want to leave it to. They are not "silver orphans".

Brooke is involved in her own world of herself. A drug rep, she's used to the finer things in life. So when she uncharacteristically befriends an older gentleman by chance, she's opened up to a life that seems to have been discarded by the rest of society. And at his death, she's tasked with trying to find his next of kin and arranging for his funeral and all the other decisions that happen when someone dies. And finding out his past is a lot harder than she expects it to be.

I have a problem with the character of Brooke. The Brooke we see in the first few pages of the book, is not the Brooke we see everywhere else. There is no way that that character can be the same person who would take time to befriend an elderly man and then take care of his arrangements after he dies. Because we have this nice Brooke happen while he is still alive, then evil Brooke when she gets the notification that he's dead, and then nice Brooke again when she's researching his history, it's almost as if she has an out of body experience. And it's not a believable personality. Maybe she's supposed to be one of those characters that "grows" in the book, but that only works if she's awful in the beginning and then progressively gets better. Having her be an evil little snit for a random part in the middle of the timeline just didn't work. Frank by contrast is wonderful. He's very typical of the clients I see come in. They all have such great stories and the majority a healthy respect for life. Even though he has hardships, he still perseveres.

Frank's story did make me sad. The author is correct in calling this a social novel when it comes to the plight of these Silver Orphans. The elderly who have no-one to take care of them or even take an interest in their life. But then the story changes a little bit. An ending that seems too coincidental, not to mention eliminates much of what we thought about Frank, kind of ruined the image of Frank for me. I think the "social novel" aspect of this book would have been better preserved if Frank stayed the old, impoverished man that Brooke knew. But I suppose the author wanted a happy ending, and many readers probably do to so I'm most likely in the minority. I do like how Lancombe got her facts across accurately and in an interesting way. She had some nice figures on prices for funeral costs, elder population, and other such things. It made the book almost have a non-fiction feel to it. But in addition to those facts it had a few other facts that just seemed kind of random and out of place, like quoting the origins of holidays and other such things. Because they were inserted into conversation, it made the fact giving appear even more forced and I was confused by their use in the book.

An interesting book and the story of Frank did touch my heart. I just wish that the character of Brooke could have been more believable. It kind of sullied what would have been a very good book. Regardless, it's a good look at a growing problem in society and the way that our elders are treated. A very solid three stars with the potential for more and I would read more by this author.

Silver Orphans
Copyright 2012
232 pages

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