Sunday, March 3, 2013
Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale by Lynda Ruthledge
Possessions - they can define us. We may remember a certain a person by what they collect, what they drove, and maybe like a certain English teacher I had years ago, a certain perfume they always wore. Our understanding of who that person is, is wrapped in what they owned and used. Possessions can actually refine us. How many versions are there to the age old story of turning a poor bumpkin into a socialite by adding some fancy trimmings (and some improved grammar)? Sadly too many in real life have bought into the fantasy that becoming a better person is a matter of getting more belongings. We may not realize it, but too often possessions also confine us. We think they add to our lives, but instead they separate us from others. Often they become more important than other humans. Mother Theresa definitely understood that, and maybe we all need to see how we hide behind what we own.
Lynda Rutledge has written an absolutely delightful first novel around one woman's decision to rid herself of all her possessions on the last day of the millennium, which she believes will be the day she dies. And let me tell you, Faith Bass Darling has MANY possessions to dispose of. Her mansion, which goes back five generations or so, is the largest in town. No family heirloom has ever been sold or given away. And for the past twenty years, since the terrible accident that took her son's life, and also led to her husband's death and her daughter's flight from town, the mansion has been Faith Bass Darling's virtual prison. When townspeople see several young boys helping the seventy year old Mrs. Darling carry antiques and dozens of genuine Tiffany lamps out onto the lawn next to a homemade sale sign, they take notice. As the first comers talk to Faith and find that she is selling items for mere dollars, word spreads like wildfire. Among early lookers is Bobbie Blankenship, local antique store dealer. She's come ready to investigate what she has always dreamed about - the contents of the Darling mansion. Why she even credits her obsession with this house and its secrets with her later career choice. But quickly she realizes Faith is not rational and this sale should not be. She's always stayed in touch with Claudia, the Darling daughter who ran away as a teen. Maybe she can make it home in time to stop the damage.
Readers will see what the townspeople cannot. Faith, having been given an Alzheimer diagnosis, is making a final effort to separate herself from all those things that instead of giving her pleasure, actually confined and robbed her of a life. Her lucidity fades in and out, giving us a means of learning the full story -the sadness behind the luxurious door and draped windows, how her son died, why she blamed her husband, and why Claudia left. As we learn her story, we also learn the story of the local Episcopal priest who has wavered in his own faith, but comes when Faith reaches out. Readers will come to admire Deputy Sheriff John Jasper Johnson. He claims he owes her his life, but others may say the Darling family ruined his chances for a college sports career and a better future. All this against the backdrop of the Y2K and the scare, Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale is a must read. It is a tender book, both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, with enough humor and irony to keep any book club talking for hours. Tiffany Baker, herself a best selling author, calls this book "a small-town novel that asks the big questions of life." I couldn't agree more. Check out Lynda Ruthledge's website to learn more and to read an excerpt.