Dust Jacket Information

In his first novel, Staggerford, Jon Hassler demonstrated a keen eye for human fraility, a wry humor combined with deep compassion, and a remarkably original sense of style.  In Simon's Night, a book full of laughter and tears, warmth and affirmation, he proves that he can sustain and surpass the talents for which Staggerford was so justly praised.

At the age of seventy-six, just five days younger than the century, Simon Shea, retired professor of English literature, decides that it is time to "bank his fires" and begin his retirement from life.  After thirty-five years of solitary, self-sufficient living in his beloved cottage on the banks of Badbattle River, Simon fears that he is losing his memory: he's lost his mail someplace between the mailbox and the front door; he's lost his car in St. Paul; and once he even lost his way home.  When he absentmindedly set his kitchen on fire one day, the fright is too much.  He packs his bags, some books, and his Persian rug and checks into the Norman Home, determined to be content.  Luckily, the decision in not irrevocable.

During the course of his two weeks as a resident of the Norman Home, Simon has occasion to review and reconsider the events of his life which have brought him to such a conclusion.  Though a man of deep feeling, he is not a man for regrets.  "He had known a multitude of men whose company her preferred, but those other men were dead, and here at the Norman Home one made do."  One made do with the farmer, Hatch, whose conversation is a litany of the great droughts of the last fifty years, and with the Indian, whose conversation is almost non-existent.  Is it any wonder, then, that Simon, after only eight days, comes to feel "with the certainty of a lifelong faith, that if he ever lost his mind -- not merely his memory, which was deserting him anyhow, but every last marble -- it would happen in this room, facing this wallpaper and listening to this prattle."

Simon is a man who has twice known and lost love, who has felt the admiration of generations of students, and who might have expected to end his life differently.  But so shaken is he by his loss of memory that it takes an extraordinary jolt from the past, in the person of his wife Barbara, estranged for thirty-three years, to make him acknowledge his mistake and lure him back to the cottage -- to make him realize that there is no intermediate existence -- short of death, no alternative to life.  

 

 

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Last modified: March 04, 2002