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The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey - Walter Mosley

It is hard to understand why this novel is so engaging, but it is engaging nonetheless.  Not much happens really.  Ptolemy Grey, a 91 year old man suffering from dementia, lives in a squalid apartment, alone and cared for once a week or so by a great nephew, Reggie. He is so confused about people that he can hardly figure out who Hilly is.  Hilly is another great nephew who comes to help Ptolemy out because Reggie has been killed in a drive-by shooting, but Hilly doesn’t tell Ptolemy this.  He simply takes Ptolemy to Hilly’s house where the wake is being held and lets Ptolemy find out that way.  At Hilly’s house is a 17 year old young woman, Robyn, a friend of the family who is now living with Hilly and his mom. Robyn finally takes Ptolemy home and discovers his apartment should be on an episode of “Hoarders”.  She takes a few weeks to clean things up and gets very close to Ptolemy in the process.  She is one of the only people who seems to value him as a person and doesn’t just care for him because he is family. 


Ptolemy is finally taken to a doctor who offers him a chance to get his mind cleared of the dementia, but only for a short time and Ptolemy will pay a big price.  Ptolemy jumps at the chance because he has known in the back of his mind for a while that he has something very important that he needs to remember in order to help his family.  It works and Ptolemy’s mind is now better than it ever was before.  He can remember essentially everything that has ever happened to him.  He and Robyn get even closer; she has moved in with him and takes care of him even though he doesn’t even need it so much now.  Truthfully the relationship between these two is kind of creepy because they develop a kind of love for each other like lovers.  He considers her his new adopted daughter, but he also tells her that if he was 50 years younger and she was 20 years older that he would marry her.  And she tells him she would have his children and they would move to Georgia and grow peaches.  So Ptolemy is able to help his family by remembering the thing he needed to remember.  That’s just about all that happens – not really any action, just a lot of an old man, his memories and a budding relationship with a young woman.


Walter Mosley has a wonderful way of spinning out stories, and I have enjoyed the two books of his that I have read; however I have gotten tired of how evil white people are primarily depicted in his books.  I know Walter Mosley’s history and I understand the race relations present in his own life have not always been the best, but I don’t want to read books that portray only one race negatively.  Ptolemy doesn’t seem to regard Reggie’s murder as a race issue even though it was a black man who killed him.  He simply sees it as a love triangle kind of thing.  I know I’m not the first to criticize this issue and I won’t be the last.  It doesn’t make Walter Mosley any less of a great writer, it is just a personal peeve of mine. I’ve never read an Easy Rawlins book, and I’ll probably try that next and see if they what they are like in this regard.