One Vacant Chair

One Vacant Chair

Book - 2003
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A hilarious and irresistible new novel by Joe Coomer, whom The Washington Times calls "a marvelously creative comic writer"

It's where you sit down that determines everything in life.

Sarah's aunt Edna paints portraits of chairs. Not people in chairs, just chairs. The old house is filled with the paintings, and the chairs themselves surround her work-a silent yet vigilant audience. At the funeral of Grandma Hutton-whom Edna has cared for through an agonizingly long and vague illness-Sarah begins helping her aunt clean up the last of a life. This includes honoring Grandma's surprising wish to have her ashes scattered in Scotland.

"We were two fat women, eighteen years apart, a chair artist and a designer of Christmas ornaments, who only knew we had troubles and a hot summer to get through," says Sarah. But as it turns out, there is a great deal more to quirky Aunt Edna's troubles than Sarah could possibly imagine. As the novel turns from the hot, oppressive heat of Texas to the misty beauty of Scotland, she learns of her aunt's remarkable secret life and comes to fully understand the fragile business of living, and even of dying.

Praised for his richly drawn characters and as a master storyteller, Joe Coomer is at the height of his powers in One Vacant Chair .

Winner of the S. Mariella Gable Fiction Prize

Publisher: St. Paul, MN :, Graywolf Press,, 2003.
ISBN: 9781555973858
Branch Call Number: FIC COOM
Characteristics: 273 pages ; 24 cm


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thart Mar 15, 2011

A selection for the book club at my local library (Crystal Lake Public Library) that I read later on my own to catch up (orig. they read it for 4/2010). I enjoyed this book thoroughly! The main character Sarah is a bit of a Smart Alec and is going through some interesting middle-age issues: a loss of a not-so-loved relative, an impending separation/divorce?, and a reconnection with a quirky and fun relative, her aunt Edna, who only paints chairs. I enjoyed thinking about how simple objects like chairs can reveal so much if we examine them more closely, and the connection between the women in the novel despite their different personalities.

The main premise of the story is that Sarah's grandma has died, the crotchity and unpleasant matriarch of the family, who Edna cared for through a long and vague illness, and now Sarah has decided to stay with her aunt who becomes a sort of guru to her and cope with her husband's infidelity. Sarah is an overweight and unhappy but successful designer of kitschy Christmas ornaments, while Edna is an unmarried school cafeteria worker who is obsessed with painting empty chairs. The two are put together by the strange request of the grandma who wanted her ashes scattered in Scotland, even though she only saw pictures of the country in a book. It is quirky, odd, very funny, and sincerely an enjoyable read! I recommend this book to lovers of fiction who like a good laugh, cry, and introspection all at the same time!


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