Book Review: 'The Last Days Of Ptolemy Grey'

Walter Mosley's latest novel, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, is the story of an aged black man who struggles to maintain his life and his memories.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

Walter Mosley has published nearly three dozen novels. Many of them are mysteries. Some of them are science fiction, and some of them explore family and race in America. His new novel, "The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey," takes us into the cramped world of a 91-year-old black man. He's on the verge of losing his mind and his life.

Alan Cheuse has this review.

ALAN CHEUSE: When we first meet 90-plus-year-old Ptolemy Grey, the very, very old black man, as the novelist describes him, he's holed up in his filthy L.A. apartment, where he's lost his wife years before and where his mind seems to be falling apart right in front of us. Grey is suffering from a huge jumble of thoughts about his parents, about the lynching of his best friend, about a battle he fought in World War II, about his wife dying in his arms. It doesn't matter that he's hoarding a stash of gold under the floorboards. His life becomes poorer and poorer by the day.

And then along comes a young woman, a family friend named Robyn, and everything changes. Robyn gives him the respect and affection he's lacked since the distant demise of his wife. Just as important, she arranges an appointment with a local doctor, a sort of cross between friendly Dr. Mehmet Oz and fervid Dr. Faustus, who invites him to join a dangerous but hopeful experiment that will restore his memory but decrease the days of his life.

Old Ptolemy signs on and so did I to this sweetheart of a novel fusing family, fable, science fiction and sociology, that contains echoes of Katherine Anne Porter and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but mainly stamped with the distinctive intensity of the prolific Walter Mosley.

BLOCK: The novel is "The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey." Our reviewer Alan Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

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