Half the Kingdom

Melville House. Oct. 2013. 176p. ISBN 9781612193021. $23.95; ebk. ISBN 9781612193038. F
OrangeReviewStarJoe Bernstine is dying. Fans of Segal's books may remember Joe as the director of a think tank in her previous collection of interconnected short stories, Shakespeare's Kitchen, short-listed for a Pulitzer Prize. Joe is working on a project to catalog "end of the world" scenarios. He's hired his daughter Bethy, an old friend Lucy Friedgold, Lucy's son Benedict, and a computer whiz named Al. Nothing, however, goes as planned. Joe ends up in a hospital where there seems to be an epidemic of perfectly sane seniors developing dementia within hours of arrival. Is this a terrorist plot? Is it something the hospital is doing? Segal artfully connects the stories of several individuals' lives into a patchwork quilt of the elderly trying to survive their last days, dealing with their children and grandchildren, holding grudges, and then letting them go.
VERDICT No one tells a story better than the 85-year-old Segal. With a few carefully chosen words, she is able to create a real person and in this novel at least 20 fully fleshed-out characters. Each one is unique, and their end-of-life scenarios will resonate with anyone who has dealt with aging parents or is in the post-65-year-old demographic.
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