Hayden MacBride has been diagnosed with "The Cancer." But this Scot --- the main character in Laura Pedersen's LAST CALL --- won't let dying get him down. He has always lived life to the fullest, with gusto and a sense of humor, and he is not about to change that now.
Living in the family home in Brooklyn with his daughter Diana and eleven-year-old grandson Joey, Hayden makes light of his situation whenever he can. "Who's goin' to make sure I get cremated in me pajamas so that a good suit do'an' go to waste," he asks of his fretful and frustrated daughter.
His sense of humor is both persistent and contagious. Leaving the house for a so-called baseball game, he summons Joey with, "C'mon now, we're off like a new bride's nightie." And Joey, devoted to his grandfather, is picking up some of the old man's habits. Joey bandies around barroom jokes like "How do you get all the Highlanders (Scots) up on the roof?" much to his mother's dismay. (The punch line: You tell 'em the drinks are on the house!)
Hayden spends his days circling obituaries in the paper, and then traveling from one stranger's funeral to the next, "serious medical inquiry into the pros and cons of euthanasia," he calls it. He doesn't do it for the free "petit fours."
If his daughter, who spends her free time searching out new treatments and cures for cancer, knew Hayden occupied his days with viewings, funerals and wakes --- and dragged her son along to boot --- she'd be mortified. Ah, "relations are a willful lot," Hayden tells his grandson.
The other woman in Hayden's life is Rosamond, a nun on sabbatical from the convent, in search of her own answers. Hayden teaches Rosamond how to let loose and truly enjoy life outside the convent walls. They have a tender and bittersweet love for each other. Another romance blossoms, too: overprotective Diana falls in love also, with Hank, an architect toying with the idea of the priesthood. And Hayden's Scottish circle of friends --- his diehard drinking buddies --- add another layer of humor and reality to this touching story.
Pedersen's LAST CALL is a funny tale about human foibles and faults, and a search for life, faith and love. It's a charmer, with characters as real as your own family.
Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara on December 30, 2003