The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley: A Review

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“When you deal with a person who’s experiencing dementia, you can see where they’re struggling with knowledge [. . . ] You can see what they forget completely, what they forget but they know what they once knew. You can tell how they’re trying to remember. … What I saw in my mom’s eyes and in some of her expressions, was her saying, ‘I want to understand it; I want to understand what you’re saying; I want to enter into a dialogue with you; I want things to be the way they were.’ That’s the crux of the novel: What would you do to have things the way they were?” ― Walter Mosley on The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

ptolemygreyMy Summary: 91-year old Ptolemy Grey is lost in his memories until a doctor gives him the medicine he needs to gain clarity, set resolutions, reflect upon regrets, and seek redemption.

Their Summary: Ptolemy Grey is ninety-one years old and has been all but forgotten-by his family, his friends, even himself-as he sinks into a lonely dementia. His grand-nephew, Ptolemy’s only connection to the outside world, was recently killed in a drive-by shooting, and Ptolemy is too suspicious of anyone else to allow them into his life, until he meets Robyn, his niece’s seventeen-year-old lodger and the only one willing to take care of an old man at his grandnephew’s funeral. But Robyn will not tolerate Ptolemy’s hermit-like existence. She challenges him to interact more with the world around him, and he grasps more firmly onto his disappearing consciousness. However, this new activity pushes Ptolemy into the fold of a doctor touting an experimental drug that guarantees Ptolemy won’t live to see age ninety- two but that he’ll spend his last days in feverish vigor and clarity. With his mind clear, what Ptolemy finds-in his own past, in his own apartment, and in the circumstances surrounding his grand-nephew’s death-is shocking enough to spur an old man to action, and to ensure a legacy that no one will forget.

Thoughts on the Book: There was plenty of wisdom shared throughout the pages of Ptolemy Grey. I could see and hear every character and various emotions were raised during their interactions with one another. The book made me question and reflect upon my own life, wondering what regrets or memories I might hold onto if I reached 91. What relationships impacted me in ways I might not realize now and what thoughts would bring me sorrow? Obviously, Ptolemy Grey is the kind of book that makes you think and even teaches lessons, as all books should. I mean, the summary says just enough of what you need to know about this one. I loved it. I suggest you read it for yourself. I don’t know what more I can say.

Oh, I will add that when I thought about who might play the part of Ptolemy in a movie adaption, the first person that came to mind was Samuel L. Jackson. Little did I know that according to Shadow & Act (they know everything!), there’s already something in the works. Read more on that. Sorry this isn’t much of a review. I just really enjoyed this book. Sometimes it’s that simple.

Excerpt: “Are you still having trouble thinking?” Church asked.

“No. I think just fine,” Ptolemy said. “It’s just that I got some trouble remberin’ things I used to know. I mean, I know you got them gloves on ’cause you think there’s a germ in here. I know that this girl here is my granddaughter. But I don’t remembah where I put things a long time ago, an’ I cain’t, I cain’t . . . things I need to find.”

There was so much he couldn’t do. Sometimes he’d stand over thee toilet for five minutes waiting to urinate. Sometimes when the phone would ring he’d go to the door and ask, “Who is it?” and when Robyn told him that it was the pone he’d get so embarrassed that he’d go  into the bedroom just  so he wouldn’t have to see her feeling sorry for him.

waltermosleyWalter Mosley on Writing:  My only ritual for writing is that I do it every morning. I wake up and get to work. If I’m in a motel in Mobile — so be it. If I am up all night, and morning is two o’clock in the afternoon, well, that’s okay too. The only thing that matters is that you write, write, write. It doesn’t have to be good writing. As a matter of fact, almost all first drafts are pretty bad. What matters is that you get down the words on the page or the screen — or into the tape recorder, if you work like that. Your first sentence will start you out, but don’t let it trip you up. If you are the intuitive type, just sit down and start writing the novel: Lamont had only enough cash to buy half a pint of whiskey at Bob’s Liquor Emporium, but he knew it wouldn’t be enough. Ragman was dead, and that was at least a quart’s worth of mourning. What does it mean? How should I know? Those were the first words that came out. I’m not going to worry about it; I’m just going to keep on writing until either something clicks or I lose momentum. If it doesn’t seem to be working, I’ll start with a new first sentence. I’ll keep on like that until something strikes my fancy and I have enough of a handle on the story to continue. (Read more . . . )

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Happy reading, y’all.

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