After an absence of seven years, Greg Bowman returns home from America to find his father lying in a bamboo coffin, his estranged brother Billy stalking a woman with no feet, and his 79 year-old Uncle Frank planning to rob a bank. While renovating the family house, he is unexpectedly visited by the presence of his dead father and charged with the task of ‘fixing’ the family. In the course of his reluctant investigations, Greg discovers an unsettling secret of his father’s, and one that brings him face to face with the consequences of his own past.
Lyle Bowman is eighty-three years old. Taking a break from painting his house he decides to go and get a Double Decker from the local shop. What he has not realised is that he has drunk a glass of white spirit and his inability to walk results in him being knocked over and killed by a double-decker bus.
His youngest son, Greg returns from America for his funeral. It is the first time he has been home to see his family in seven years – his Uncle Frank and his older brother, Billy (a brother with whom he has been estranged.) Whilst staying in his father’s house, Greg’s Dad suddenly appears. What ensues is a look at this dysfunctional family who has to learn how to be a family again.
This book was not what I expected. There were elements of the story that took me completely by surprise especially the ending. There is a thread of sadness running through it but it is also done with great humour. There were some bittersweet moments, some strange moments and some outright funny moments – my favourites involving Greg’s Uncle Frank. I think out of all the characters, he was my favourite.by
Last Bus to Coffeeville is the story of five people whose lives, in one way or another, have jumped the tracks. The central story though, and the one that explains the bus journey to Coffeeville, is the fulfilment of a promise made by one friend to another almost fifty years previously, that if she inherits the Alzheimer’s that runs in her family, then he will bring her life to a dignified and timely ending.
My mother suffered from subtle stroke dementia for the last ten years of her life, and the idea for the key story came from watching her disappear and another person take her place. The experience made me wonder if someone in a similar situation, who knew the fate that awaited them, would make plans to bypass such misery.
Where would be the one place you would go if you could and why? (Present or a place in history.)
I’d like to be transported to the 1950s and spend my teenage years growing up in small town Middle America. The times were simpler then, the technology reduced, and I’d have been able to drive a large car with ridiculous tail fins. I also think I’d have enjoyed going to High School. This is an idyll, of course. If my colour changed during the transportation process I might well regret this decision. Growing up in 50s America wasn’t a barrel of laughs if you were black.
How much planning do you do before beginning a book? What has to be in place?
If I’m honest, not very much. I’ll have a vague notion about the story, know how it starts and how it ends, but no clear idea how the two dots join. For me, this makes the writing process more interesting – and also surprising.by