Friday, January 11, 2013

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Bookless in Vegas

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson is a good book that took me two years to read, or more accurately, two years to finally open it.  This book was a panic buy. Two years ago I was heading back from Las Vegas to North Idaho when I realized that I was almost done with my book and would probably finish it midflight.  If I finished my book on the plane, I would have nothing to read! Nothing to read! I was panicking!  My heart began to pound. What was I supposed to do for all those hours?  My breathing became shallow. I started to twitch. I was going through the beginning stages of withdrawals. 

It brought memories flooding back to when I was pregnant (and hormonal) in 1991.  I was already in bed reading when I finished my book.  I had no more books in the house and I began to get cranky, very cranky, pregnant cranky.  I complained to my husband.  By this time in my pregnancy, he was used to my mood swings, but it was late and he was caught off guard. Instead of saying the magic words, “Should I run to the store and get you a book?”  He said, "Well just go out there and watch TV."  Whooo wheeee, what a brave man!  Wrong thing to say.

It turned into quite a little spat and I ended up yanking the blanket off the bed and sleeping in the guest room.  And while I was laying there fuming, I transformed into Scarlett O’Hara.  Into the still dark room I lifted my fist and swore:

"As God is my witness, as God is my witness, I'm going to live through this, and when it's over, I'm never going to be bookless again. If I have to steal or kill—as God is my witness, I’ll never be bookless again."

The good news is that I have not resorted to theft or murder. Instead, I have been quietly collecting books here and there for years now.  I have a library full of them, I have stacks of them all over. They are crawling up the side of the fireplace, under night stands, and all throughout the basement family room.  Sometimes they even find their way on my sparse three shelves of closet space that I share with the linens. I am surrounded by a thrilling cocoon of future adventures waiting for me.  For those twenty years plus that have passed since that dark time in my life when I was bookless in Vegas, I have never run out of reading material—until that day at the airport two years ago.  Luckily I had time to buy a book before the flight, just in case of an emergency—Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.

The truth is my fear was completely unfounded. I did NOT finish the book on the plane and I did not have time to open my new treasure.  And when I got home I still had all those stacks and stacks that had seniority over Mr. Pettigrew.  So he was placed on the stacks to be forgotten—kind of like being stored in the warehouse where the Ark of the Covenant was placed at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. But I finally got to it, and it was worth the wait.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson was a fun read. It’s about a sixty-eight-year-old stuffy but lovable English widower, Major Pettigrew.  After the Major’s brother passes away, the local shopkeeper helps him get to the funeral and they form a friendship.  The problem?  She’s a Pakistani widow and this small English country town and their own family members are neither ready for racial commingling, nor their unequal social standings. Everyone has their place and their roles, and Major Pettigrew’s and Mrs. Ali’s attraction is not proper. But it’s obvious that the Major’s dry wit and sensibilities are a good match to smart and congenial Mrs. Ali.  This book is a slow but satisfying waltz.  It takes time for them to sort out the complications, but in the meantime I enjoyed the dance.

Don’t let this one get lost in your stacks of books. 

Happy Reading,

What about you? Have you ever panicked when you ran out of books to read? Enter a comment or email me at and I will post your answer.

What did you think of this book? Post a comment or email:

1 comment:

  1. Well Scarlet, sounds if I should add this to my tiny book pile. Unlike yours, mine is quite a bit smaller.