The Latecomers: deep love, mysticism, and challenges face a 60 year old couple
The Latecomers, Rich Marcello
Genre: General Fiction (ARC)
Published Jan 15, 2020, 294 pages
I received this book as an ARC through #BookSirens - all opinons are my own. From the jacket copy it sounded interesting and something different for me. After reading it, I was right - it's definitely not something I usually gravitate toward.
This is a love story of a 60-something couple at a crossroads. Deeply in love and happy in their relationship, Charlie develops a restlessness that sets them on a spiritual, emotional journey of exploration - both of their relationship and their purpose in life. Though it took me a few chapters to get into the writing style and story, I did stay with it and mostly enjoyed the book.
Charlie and Maggie (Latecomers is their last name) display some good techniques for connecting with a partner/spouse and for working through differences. There's some sex scenes (done in good taste I thought) demonstrating that great sex can be found at any age. However, I found their extreme trust and honesty with each other a little unrealistic at times - or maybe idealistic. I just can't believe that some of their choices would be so understood and forgiven in 'real life'. I also found myself a little tired of how often their 'connection' to each other was mentioned, described, emphasized. I get it already!
"When you have to choose between what you absolutely love and what you absolutely love that's also your destiny, you'll soften enough to let the wisdom of surrender enter."
At it's center, this is a love story, not in a sweet way but in a mature, insightful, almost spiritual way. The first half of the book develops their back story and gives real depth to each of them. The chapters alternate between Charlie and Maggie as they each reflect on their lives together (2nd marriage for both) and the way they perceive their connection. They’ve both been laid off from their jobs earlier than they wanted so are trying to figure out what to do with themselves and they turn to art – her painting, him woodworking. Then Charlie gets that darned "restless" feeling!
"I thought about one of our most fundamental beliefs as a couple - all we could do was what we thought was right, and how our partner decided to react was their choice."
A Little Mysticism to Engage
The second half of the book is more mystical. There's a mystical lake, a cave, plants with unusual healing properties, and a mysterious woman who's 112 years old who gives them an ancient hand drawn book of runic symbols that they feel compelled to try to decipher. They make some great new friends of a variety of ages and sexes and form a maoi (“A family striving to wake up by working at their ikigai’s each day.” – Ikiagi = “reason for being or going after your life’s purpose”.) This group of 5 people grow together, tie their lives together, and forge strong, supportive connections. However, there are challenges - one of which is a greedy pharmaceutical tycoon that threatens everything but also clarifies everything.
"...we shared a feast at my kitchen table, or really four feasts, each designed to meet our own needs. I couldn't help but think how the four of us prepared food together - seamlessly integrating the healthy choices for each of us - was a microcosm of how human beings should treat each other. We were four individuals connected, unique and separate, committed to seeing each other as clearly as we could. Our work going forward might turn out to be as much about true connection as it was about health."
The prose is wonderful, the concept thought provoking, the spiritual theme of a ‘found family’ becoming your support and love and family, the continued focus on creating and maintaining personal connections makes for a strong read.
I am actually surprised that I enjoyed the book as much as I did. I think if you're open to the idea of spiritual power and growth (not religious), there's a lot to think about in this story. This would be an excellent choice for a book club.
photo of tea leaves via Jia Ye @ unsplash