Sunday, April 24, 2011

DEATH BENEFITS by Sarah N. Harvey

Royce can't believe it when his mother announces that they are leaving Nova Scotia and heading clear across the country to Victoria, British Columbia.  He is going to be leaving behind all his friends and the only home he has ever known all for some grouchy ninety-five year old grandfather he hardly remembers.

If moving isn't bad enough, Royce is shocked when his mother says she will pay him to act as caregiver for his grandfather until school starts at the end of the summer.  At least the pay she is offering beats what he would get flipping burgers at McDonald's.

When Royce finally meets Arthur, he immediately has second thoughts about accepting this job instead of something in the fast food business.  The old man totters along with the aid of a walker, watches CNN, MTV, and reruns of Little House on the Prairie.  When he isn't captivated by the TV, he is yelling for coffee and chocolate ice cream or swearing at Royce.  Anyone observing their daily rituals would never guess that Arthur had once been a world famous cello player and renowned womanizer.

The relationship between Royce and Arthur gradually begins to change.  He is still a demanding, cantankerous old coot, but he surprises Royce one afternoon when he demands that Royce take him for a drive.  Considering that Royce only has a learner's permit, it is rather amazing that Arthur trusts his young grandson to drive his most cherished possession - an awesome 1956 T-bird.  The afternoon drives soon become a regular routine.

The summer Royce spends with his grandfather turns out to be valuable beyond his wildest dreams.  Despite his often abrasive manner, the old man has an excellent sense of humor that matches Royce's own ironic view of life, and the companionship that forms provides benefits for both.  When Arthur is stricken with a series of strokes, Royce is crushed to see the stately old man stripped of his dignity.

DEATH BENEFITS by author Sarah N. Harvey is the entertaining story of a friendship that bridges the generation gap and shows how two people from different times and different worlds can come to know and understand each other deeply.  Readers will quickly come to love both Royce and Arthur and to appreciate how the characters celebrate the benefits life has given them.

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