Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Walter's Muse; Jean Davies Okimoto

Title: Walter's Muse
Author: Jean Davies Okimoto
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Endicott and Hugh Books
Edition: Trade

Source: my shelves
Setting: Washington
Date Completed: February - 2013
Rating: 2.5/5 
Recommend: no

I read several favorable reviews about this book, but sadly I wasn't as impressed.  It was definitely a character driven novel, but I found the writing overwrought and lacking substance.
The story takes place on Vachon Island, Washington, a remote island accessible only by ferry or boat. The locale seemed lovely and the beauty and tranquility the island seemed to offer takes on a life of its own -- makes me want to live there.  There are (2) major characters in this story: Walter, a grumpy senior citizen, who is also awell known writer of children's books. He is also a man who has struggled with alcoholism. Maggie, the other main character, is a former school librarian who is now retired. At 65 when she thinks of Walter, she can't help but recalls a much earlier encounter with him when she worked as a librarian.  Maggie's also a nosy lady who likes to snoop on others, and she spends much of her time feeling sorry for herself, and the way her life turned out. Both of these characters enjoy their solitude and privacy. There are a few minor characters on the island as well. Miss Martha, a senior, senior citizen who shares wisdom of the ages; she's now 91, and, there is Bill Bailey, Walter's dog who is mentioned so often I had to count him as a key player.
When the story begins, Maggie hears Bill Baily, Walter's dog, howling non stop and goes over to check things out during a high wind and rain storm. She finds Walter has fallen off of a ladder and is injured. She calls for help and he is taken to the hospital.  In the interim, Walter asks Maggie to care for his dog, which she does.  As the novel progresses, and it is a painfully slow process, they begin to see the good in one another and form a connection.
I can see the appeal of this book for some readers who enjoy setting more than story, but it's just not the type of novel that I typically enjoy, and honestly I didn't care for the main characters either.


  1. I've read those good reviews too - this may not be for me because I have to have some plot with my characters.

  2. well, painfully slow isn't going to do it for me. And I'm agreeing with you on The Racketeer -- how long can this possibly be???

  3. I did enjoy this one mainly because it was with older characters, who grew on me, and the setting was new to me. It was different from what I usually read. Too bad it wasn't your cup of tea.

  4. I liked this one. I thought it had charm. And the setting, which I also enjoyed, made up for the slow parts.

  5. When you don't connect or care for the main characters, that's a sign that a book's just not your cup of tea. Thanks for your honest review, Diane.

  6. This book sounds a little slow and retired for me, so I will probably stay away, but I did enjoy reading your thoughts on it. You did a nice job of reviewing it with honesty.

  7. I don't think that one would keep my attention.

  8. I wasn't pulled in by the synopsis but the main thing for me is finding something to like about the characters. When that's lacking then I totally get not liking this one!!! Thanks for your insight!

  9. I loved the characters, slow perhaps because they are all retirees, but on a beautiful Pacific Northwest island. I thought the characters were very well drawn. It's one of my favs, perhaps because I'm also a retiree!

  10. I hadn't heard of this one and it doesn't really sound as though it's the kind of book I'd really enjoy either. Maybe it would be better on audio.

  11. You only see the French wearing sneakers and sweats when they are working out.

  12. Location isn't enough to keep me going either but I do appreciate your thoughts!

  13. Run... Running from this one. Ha!

    Thanks for an honest review

  14. I read Okimoto's last book and didn't care for it; doesn't sound like I'll be giving her another chance with this one.

  15. I'm always drawn to books set in the Pacific Northwest and I'm familiar with Vashon Island, so I may still give this a try. Some thought Emily, Alone (Stewart O'Nan) was slow (and depressing), but I loved it, so maybe this will be my cuppa, as well. Fingers crossed! :)

  16. I'm a big fan of Okimoto. Missed this review when I was ill, but I'm sorry it fell flat for you. I was transported to Vashon Island by her prose, and I identified with her characters - perhaps because of my age. However, different strokes for different folks. At least you gave it a try.

  17. Sorry you didn't like this one more but luckily there are many more really good books out there waiting for you to discover them.

  18. I discovered your review because last night my book group discussed this book and I just wanted to know more. I gave this book a high praise review on my blog, because I found the characters so believable and so finely tuned and I loved that an introvert was the main character and stayed within that role.

    I thought the book truly looked at the hard issues of transformation and change and how one builds a new community out of what surrounds them. An island is a hard place to live if one is not into community building and diversity. Vashon Island is a remarkable community.

    Some of us are retirees in our group but many are not and 11 of us stayed together for an extra hour because the book gave us so many openings to look at concerns and fears and how the world is changing. Even Martha's acceptance of her dementia was inspiring to our younger members who started the evening talking about breast implants and facelifts they wanted. The depth of discussion that came out of this book was amazing and will last a lifetime in my memory banks.
    Not every book is for everyone. That is true and that is why I like to check out things that others don't care for - I always learn so much.

    Island life is slow, retired life can be slow, none of us found this book slow and enjoyed the massive amounts of metaphors about life - from deep waters to wind storms which blow through.

    1. Patricia, I loved that you took the time to share the your thoughts about this one and that it was such a good discussion book for your group. I checked out your blog and have added you to my list of blogs to follow. Thanks again

  19. I still like the cover so much I might try it!


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