BlueInk Reviews (Starred)
One More Last Dance
Publisher: Little York Books Pages: 267 Price: (paperback) $17.95 ISBN: 9780997180268 Reviewed: July, 2017
One More Last Dance is a compelling story about the power of friendship, one that develops between two men through an unlikely road trip.
Peckerwood Finch has a lot going against him. The 25-year-old Cajun man was abandoned at birth by his parents, endured abusive foster parents, is illiterate, and there’s his name—an unflattering term for a rural white Southerner. Fortunately, he’s affectionately known as Peck (his given name is Boudreaux Clement Finch). Peck is a fisherman and mows the grass at a small hospice on a Louisiana bayou. There he meets Gabriel “Gabe” Jordan, an elderly African American man dying of cancer whose final wish is to attend the Newport Jazz Festival. Despite his own shortcomings, Peck is determined to make Gabe’s dream come true.
The new friends hit the road only to be stymied by, among other things, a lack of funds and Peck’s poor sense of direction. At times, guardian angels come to their rescue, including a wealthy real estate broker who offers to buy airline tickets, among many other generosities. But Peck has no form of identification and must travel by bus while Gabe flies. The bulk of the story then concerns Peck’s adventures en route.
Antil’s moving narrative about selflessness relies heavily on readers believing that kindness from strangers exists, but it’s never syrupy. Each character is fully developed, complete with foibles, hopes and triumphs. Peck’s voice—uneducated, but respectful and kind—is thick with Cajun patois, interspersed with Cajun French (“I don’t have it, cher…I gived it to you las’ night”), and Gabe displays authentic knowledge about blues and jazz. Their friendship is the story’s heart: Peck literally leaves everything, including a fishing line in the water, to help Gabe, who becomes a father figure.
Although suspension of disbelief is occasionally required, as the story relays numerous serendipitous encounters, One More Last Dance is a sensitive, engaging portrait of the beauty of true friendship—one readers will surely savor.
KIRKUS ‘Recommended read’ REVIEW
An adventure-driven novel chronicles an eventful road trip taken by a dying man and the Cajun French version of Forrest Gump.
Boudreaux Clemont Finch generally responds to Peck—short for Peckerwood—a moniker he was given as a child for his imprudent loquaciousness. Peck works at a hospice in Carencro, Louisiana, as a yardman and caretaker, and one of the patients—Gabe Jordan—conspires to escape with his help. Gabe, an older man who’s dying from stomach cancer, is a widower whose son died while serving in Iraq. He wants to make his way to Newport, Rhode Island, for a jazz festival there, but due to Peck’s errant navigation, they find themselves in New Orleans. Gabe decides to make the best of their detour, and they head to famous Frenchman Street to hear some jazz. There, Gabe meets Sasha, the owner of a successful real estate firm and who’s also Cajun French, and the romantic chemistry between the two immediately begins to simmer. Sasha is so taken with him she offers to drive the two tourists as far as Memphis in her Bentley, and slowly Gabe reveals to her his sad plight. Peck is later suspected of kidnapping Gabe and is eventually arrested for the crime. Sasha has to find Gabe—now off on his own—to prove Peck’s innocence. Ensconced within the engaging and surprising main plot is a secondary crime drama—a violent biker steals Gabe’s pain medication, and Peck heroically retrieves it with the help of two travelers, one of whom is stabbed by the thief. With the assistance of a young woman he meets on a Greyhound bus, Peck attempts to track down the thug. Antil (Return to Tiffany’s, 2017, etc.) has a gift for conjuring magnetically complex characters, with Peck the best of them: an illiterate, nearly incomprehensible, French-speaking 25-year-old man who’s so deeply sensitive he’s irresistible to women. The author overzealously packs too much plot into a short novel—Peck’s hunt for the fugitive is an unnecessary narrative distraction. But the story as a whole brims with charm and authentic emotions.
A delightfully quirky tale both unpredictable and affecting.