Melody Carlson is well known for creating spirited, spunky characters who persist beyond their dismal circumstances and find unique ways of solving problems and bettering their situations. In her newest novel, LIMELIGHT, she offers her countless fans a thoroughly delightful escape into the fictional world of a former jet-set actress named Claudette Fioré.
In her early 80s, Claudette is one miserable widow who decided to take her future into her own hands and kill herself. The story opens in a "home" where Claudette is convalescing, or, in other words, where doctors and nurses are keeping a close eye on her. As her beautiful mansion in Beverly Hills has been taken from her due to an unscrupulous accountant and years of back taxes, Claudette's current living situation is nothing like the opulent lifestyle to which she had grown accustomed as the wife to famed Hollywood director Gavin Fioré. Having taken for granted all the perks that go along with money and power, Claudette is completely terrorized by the mere thought of living a "normal" life sans housekeepers, cook and chauffeur.
Gavin's son Michael (who is close in age to Claudette) resides in Hawaii with his lover, Richard, but arrives in gentlemanly style to remove Claudette from the "home" and help her get acclimated into real life. Michael, similarly used to the same pampered existence as Claudette, tries his level best to caress positive emotions out of her. He gallantly leads Claudette by the hand to her storage unit where they tag the valuables to be transported to the house in Silverton that belonged to her deceased mother. Without any other option, the old modest homestead is Claudette's only hope.
Traveling in her Jaguar, Claudette barely makes the trip to Silverton where Michael sets up housekeeping for his stepmother. Having succeeded in settling Claudette in, Michael returns home to Hawaii, leaving her to figure out minor tasks that most adults (and even children) take for granted. It is one comical scene after another as Claudette discovers novel ways of eating, drinking, bathing and staying warm. Having never had to lift a finger, she struggles to put away her groceries in an orderly manner and has to prep herself to tackle doing the dishes. From antic to antic, Claudette somehow survives the “common” life and even finds little victories to celebrate.
But there are more weighty considerations to contemplate than simple survival. Claudette's estranged younger sister, Violet, also lives in Silverton, and when the two meet and greet, fireworks spark a whole history of resentment and unforgiveness. With no friends to speak of, Claudette's quiet hours force her to reminisce about the past and consider her own part in the painful distance between herself and Violet. Circumstances of the most hilarious type fall like dominos around Claudette's feet, and she eventually does business with the past, present and future.
Melody Carlson's tale is chock-full of fun, laughter and ongoing internal commentary by Claudette, which will leave readers longing for a sequel to this lovable (though acidic) elderly character's foibles and follies.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on October 6, 2009