The Living Room by Bill Rolfe

Smudge is my most skittish cat, detesting most electronics.
Smudge is my most skittish cat, detesting most electronics.

Why I Read It: I liked the idea that the author was inspired by a dream, which would not let go of him.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Those who enjoy inspirational books about finding purpose and love in life will probably enjoy this book.

Publisher: LTD Publications (2012)

Length: 155 pages

Daniel Clay is a New York investment adviser, well liked by nearly everyone. He works out, is a good looker, has a golden career ahead of him. However, his personal life is a desert, lacking in close friends, family, and spouse. A mysterious unknown uncle leaves him his house in a will, this house being located in England. Daniel takes a much deserved break from work to fix up the old house and put it on the market. In the process of doing these home repairs, he manages to injure himself bad enough to need some minor medical attention from none other than the most lovely Claire. Some Instant Love ensues and pretty soon the two are setting up house.

Claire’s job is as a nurse for the terminally ill children, some of which she has nursed for years. In Daniel’s house, there is an upstairs room full of light with an excellent view. He gives permission to set it up for the children in their final days. Daniel understandably freaks out a bit after the first little girl passes away. He then starts praying for the next child, who miraculously recovers, even as Daniel becomes ill.

Let be up front and say that I have a deep-seeded prejudice towards faith healing, having suffered the consequences of a childhood of failed prayer healings that have left me with a debilitating disease. With that stated, I have definitely tried my best to set that aside and enjoy this book, and to write an honest review free of my personal prejudice. I leave it up to all of you to decide if I have done so.

This book is fairly short, at 155 pages, so the story moves along at a pretty fast clip. Most of the time, this works well for me though I did find it a bit convenient, if sweet, to have the two main characters instantly fall in love. I think the limited length of the story also led to pretty one dimensional characters (which isn’t always bad – such as in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere). Hence, the story is pretty predictable. With that said, there were still several small insights into the human condition that I found touching – such as the flute playing elderly nurse, the simple kindness of taking an ill kid out for a drive, ice cream, and a toy, and encouraging a young newspaper boy to attend college.

The ending was mostly satisfying. SPOILER ALERT While Daniel and Claire decide to live their lives together (bonus), there was this assumption that would happen in NY (negative) and not in England; Claire’s years of work in her community are just as valuable, if not more so, than Daniel’s in NY END SPOILER. If you are one to believe in miracles, then this book is very touching, capturing the necessity for small kindnesses both for the living and the soon to be dead.

What I Liked: The set up of the story drew me in; Daniel’s character captures how a person can be polite, even kind, yet have an empty life; Claire’s calling is a tough one and she carries it out with strength, poise, and kindness.

What I Disliked: The Instant Love between the two main characters; the dead-uncle-left-me-a-house really reminded me of a Peter Mayle book that was made into a movie (A Good Year) some years ago; Daniel’s charity seemed a little over the top sometimes (like the giving of a car, etc.).

2 thoughts on “The Living Room by Bill Rolfe”

  1. Funnily enough as I was reading your review i was thinking of A Good Year! I think you did a good job with the review and I didn’t pick up on any prejudice.
    Not sure if this is exactly my cup of tea, I like the sound of certain aspects but the instant love and the miracles ??? Well, I’ll keep an open mind and given that it’s only a short story if I see a copy I might just pick it up.
    Thanks for the review and all the discussion this year.
    I wish you all the best for 2013 and lots more chat!
    Lynn 😀

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