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paperback and eBook Details
  • 9781537594002
  • 220 pages
  • $14.95
Kay Rock
Author
Over the Hill and Gaining Speed: Reflections in Retirement
Kay Rock, Author
Fasten your seatbelts, we're going for a ride. Readers of all ages will relate to these meaningful and engaging vignettes that span a wide range of topics from personal triumphs to fascinating historical events. They reveal a zest for life and an infectious curiosity about the world. Her take on ordinary events is sometimes comedic, sometimes poignant, and always relatable. This charming collection of essays is like a call from your best friend--an unexpected gift that appears when you really need to laugh and occasionally, when you really need to cry. Serving as both a balm and a prod, they equally nurture and challenge both heart and mind, while offering plenty to ponder and much to celebrate.
Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 8 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 8.25 out of 10

Assessment:

Idea: Over the Hill and Gaining Speed compiles lifestyle columns that author Rock penned for the Bucks County Herald circa the early 2010s, around the time of her retirement from full-time work. A searching, reflective tone helps tie the collection together, but the columns -- though often engaging and artful -- vary more widely in subject than the subtitle "Reflections in Retirement" might suggest.

Prose: Rock is a polished, thoughtful columnist, and the selections here are well composed and meticulously edited. She's skilled at infusing the personal and particular with a sense of the universal, as in her excellent, moving column about the return of a "prodigal son." Later in the collection, she reveals herself to be a portraitist in prose, offering compelling character sketches of hikers, local storytellers, and "Ray the Bluebird Guy." For all that, Rock's work is at its best in that reflective mode promised by the title, when she sets down notes for her first grandchild about what she has learned over the years, or dares to wonder in print about what to do in retirement with "this gift of life."

Originality: Nobody else is writing about Ray the Bluebird Guy. Rock displays the strengths a good newspaper lifestyle columnist must, such as snappy engaging prose, an interest in local characters, and a keen sense of time's passing -- this collection offers paens to spring, to February, to the "irrational" season of Advent. But the work here is most original when Rock takes her own life (and the lives of her family and neighbors) as inspiration. Even in columns on familiar subjects or turns of the calendar, she always finds a fresh insight to share.

Execution: The sketches of Bucks County residents will be of interest to local historians for generations, and Rock's columns about retirement, aging, and the passages of her own family offer many rewards. The collection's organization doesn't enhance the columns or reveal connections between them, and over the course of the book no sense of a larger narrative emerges. Several columns in the book's first section, "On the Road," recount travels of Rock's that she doesn't quite (within the space restrictions of a newspaper column) make fascinating to those of us who weren't there. One exception: The knockout column "Of Baseball and Battlefields," which is about the surprising connections Rock draws between finds at seemingly unrelated historic sights. The book is best when Rock alerts to people, places, and ideas that are not familiar.

Date Submitted: October 17, 2019

Formats
paperback and eBook Details
  • 9781537594002
  • 220 pages
  • $14.95

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