Tuesday 19 August 2014

Review ~ Last Bus to Coffeeville by J. Paul Henderson.

Title: Last Bus to Coffeeville.
Author: J. Paul Henderson.
Publisher: No Exit Press.
Genre: Commercial Literary Fiction.
Source: Review copy.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

Nancy Skidmore has Alzheimer’s and her oldest friend Eugene Chaney III once more a purpose in life – to end hers.

When the moment for Gene to take Nancy to her desired death in Coffeeville arrives, she is unexpectedly admitted to the secure unit of a nursing home and he has to call upon his two remaining friends to help break her out: one his godson, a disgraced weatherman in the throes of a midlife crisis, and the other an ex-army marksman officially dead for forty years.

On a tour bus once stolen from Paul McCartney, and joined by a young orphan boy searching for lost family, the band of misfits career towards Mississippi through a landscape of war, euthanasia, communism, religion and racism, and along the way discover the true meaning of love, family and – most important of all – friendship.

Charming, uplifting and profoundly moving, Last Bus to Coffeeville is a chronicle of lives that have jumped the tracks; a tale of endings and new beginnings; a funny story about sad things.

The synopsis for Last Bus to Coffeeville really appealed to me because it was a little different to my typical read but sounded so interesting. I was expecting a sad story interlaced with humour and J. Paul Henderson definitely gave us that but it was also so much more than that. Last Bus to Coffeeville had the perfect prologue – my attention was gained straight away and from then onwards, this book took us on an entertaining yet moving journey through life and friendship.

The first part of this book focuses on Gene and Nancy and their lives up until the present day. Given that there were a lot of years to cover, this part of the book did cover quite a few grim and depressing situations. I struggled a little bit with this at first because it did feel like an overload of sad events but I quickly warmed to the characters. Bob was the highlight for me in the first part of this novel because of his humour and the way he livened up any story. His character was a joy to read and there were then plenty more weird and wonderful characters brought in throughout the novel.

When Last Bus to Coffeeville begins to take us on the road trip, I was completely drawn in to the novel and refused to put the book down. The ploy for Nancy to be snuck out of the nursing home was so amusing and the brilliant scene when it happened completely sold this book to me. We’re introduced to two new main characters of Jack and Eric who each added something a little unique to the plot. I loved the development into each of the characters we meet along the way. Normally I’m put off by long detailed explanations into what brought a character to the point in the story but I really enjoyed how the author wrote it. He gives a great insight into each different character and it felt like a really well researched, well put together plot.

I thought the author handled the core of this story, Nancy’s Alzheimer’s with great honesty and sensitivity. Though this book had great humour, the emotions of someone with Alzheimer’s and the people around her should never have been overlooked and I thought the way this was written was of big credit to the author. The love and support Nancy received from the friends she’d made was very touching. Last Bus to Coffeeville’s outlook on friendship was refreshingly real – it felt natural and believable – from the teasing to the indubitable support and loyalty of a typical friendship. This was a charming kind of novel.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

J. Paul Henderson was born and grew up in Bradford, West Yorkshire, gained a Master's degree in American Studies and travelled to Afghanistan. He worked in a foundry, as a bus conductor, trained as an accountant and then, when the opportunity to return to academia arose, left for Mississippi, returning four years later with a doctorate in 20th Century US History and more knowledge of Darlington Hoopes than was arguably necessary. (Hoopes was a Pennsylvanian socialist and the last presidential candidate of the American Socialist Party). American History departments were either closing or contracting, so he opted for a career in academic publishing. He now lives in a house in the North of England, drives a car and owns a television set. And that's about it.

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