Margaret Ann Spence Coming Home

Timed Out

By Barbara Lorna Hudson Driven Press, 2016 My writing mentor, Marylee MacDonald, (Montpelier Tomorrow, Bonds of Love & Blood) wrote in her blog recently about the challenges faced by authors over sixty. Though they may have had to put off writing until they had the time to do it, they’re disadvantaged in the publishing world. In part this is due to the fact that agents, usually young themselves, are interested in representing authors with whom they can build a career. Sometimes it is because the life experiences of an older person, transmuted into fiction, may not resonate with younger readers. For example, in the reading club notes at the back of the book, Landline, by Rainbow Rowell, readers are asked, “Are you old enough to remember talking on a landline?” Well, yes. After reading many books in which smart phones feature frequently, I was relieved to find a book about a real issue: how to find meaning and love in later years. Timed Out starts with the retirement party of Jane Lambert, an English academic. Suddenly faced with an empty calendar, Jane fills her time with visits to her widowed mother and self-improvement in the form of a gym membership, manicures and hair styling, and volunteering at a charity shop. Jane, divorced thirty years before, has never since met Mr. Right. She has good friends, but without a life companion, seeks one. She tries online dating. This has some frightening results, but Jane finds several partners over a period of about a dozen years. I don’t think this is a spoiler alert, because the book bills itself as about matchmaking for the over-sixties. However, that label undersells this book. Really, it is about how we go forward as we age and our familiar supports are removed through retirement and the death of loved ones. Timed Out is written in a linear fashion, and reads at times, especially in scenes of travel, like excerpts from Ms. Hudson’s diary. The dialogue is natural, and the character’s academic inclination to ask students to “discuss” is humorously noted several times in the story. What is never explored by the protagonist is why, over and over again, she is blind-sided when her lovers leave her. (As her husband did.) There seems to be a lack of insight here, which is odd in a social worker, Jane’s former profession. Jane also has little tolerance for those who have different political or religious beliefs from her own. Because the book is episodic rather than plotted, Jane never resolves these issues. She’s so astute about other matters that I wanted Jane to think about this. I felt myself in a conversation with Jane, and this is a tribute to good writing! Once I began this book, I found it hard to put down. Barbara Lorna Hudson is too savvy to make this story simply about a woman seeking love. The book is about the search for meaning and how to live a life without regrets. Despite the novel’s bittersweet title, never saying “It’s too late!” is the lesson here.

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