Kira’s #CBR5 “Review” #43: The Night Guest, by Fiona McFarlane

the-night-guestI have two secret wishes that I think betray how awesome I’m going to be at old age. The first is that I have always – always – wanted to go on a cruise. A children-less, alcohol-fueled cruise to various ports of call, at which I would disembark for the better part of an afternoon to buy tchotchkes and eat meals in fancy ocean-side restaurants. I’m not saying I’m not aware of the various misadventures that can befall one on maritime vacations (we all went through poop cruise); I’m just saying that in a best-case-scenario, where the weather is lovely and my room is spacious and there are no icebergs, I think a cruise could be fun.

My other Secret Old Person Opinion is that I am pumped to live in a retirement community (again, in a best-case scenario where my room is spacious and there are no icebergs). My very first job was as busperson (feminism) for the swank dining room of a upscale retirement community in the DC suburbs. Outside of the elderly’s very serious demands when it comes to seating arrangements (“But I always sit at the third table on the left”), the job wasn’t bad: generally respectful clientele, no kids throwing food on the floor, and free dinner (plus waffle-bar Sundays). But more importantly, it didn’t seem that bad for them either. Retirement communities are where you can chill with other old people, take things slowly, have your meals delivered and be cranky without etiquette-related ramifications. I mean, I bet you only have to wear shoes like, 30% of the time. And finally, perhaps mostimportantly, in a retirement community you got people looking out for you.

Ruth Field, the protagonist of Fiona McFarlane’s The Night Guest, could stand to check out a retirement community. At 75, Ruth lives alone by the ocean, in the Australia house she once shared with her now-deceased husband. Ruth’s children are adults, and their relationship with her is perfunctory, distant. One day, she is visited by Frida Young, a magnetic and intimidating woman who claims to be a home aide sent by the government to help care for her. Dubious but perhaps unconsciously eager for the company, Ruth opens herself up to Frida, who wastes little time imposing her will in the household.


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