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Out to Pasture


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Hattie McNair, the feisty protagonist of this modest, semi-autobiographical first novel, is a widow living in a South Carolina retirement home. Through her diary entries, we watch as the home's residents tell their life stories, exchange confidences and gossip, develop romantic crushes and turn to one another for support. Longing for a change in her daily routine, Hattie debates whether life is worth living. Her answer is a resounding ``yes.'' Together with Minna McKenzie, a retired music teacher, she plays piano duets, belting out a Scott Joplin rag. On an adventurous walk, Hattie discovers an empty, mysterious cottage completely covered with kudzu vines, tracks down its owner, a reclusive widower, and helps persuade him to rent it out. She also comforts her friend, Sarah Moorer, who is dying of cancer. Interpersed with the journal entries are letters to friends and cheery light verse (``August is a messy month/ With skeeters, flies, and fleas, / With thunderstorms and gale alarms/ And weeds up to your knees''). More a sketch than a finished work, this is an unpretentious, occasionally poignant look at aging. Illustrations. (Apr.)

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