So Long Chester Wheeler
Publisher: Lake Union
Publication Date: 12/06/2022
My Rating: 5 Stars + +(ARC)
Unlikely road trip companions form an unexpected bond in an uplifting novel about the past―lost and found―by the New York Times and #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author.
Lewis Madigan is young, gay, out of work, and getting antsy when he’s roped into providing end-of-life care for his insufferable homophobic neighbor, Chester Wheeler. Lewis doesn’t need the aggravation, just the money. The only requirements: run errands, be on call, and put up with a miserable old churl no one else in Buffalo can bear. After exchanging barbs, bickering, baiting, and pushing buttons, Chester hits Lewis with the big ask.
Lewis can’t say no to a dying wish: drive Chester to Arizona in his rust bucket of a Winnebago to see his ex-wife for the first time in thirty-two years―for the last time. One week, two thousand miles. To Lewis, it becomes an illuminating journey into the life and secrets of a vulnerable man he’s finally beginning to understand. A neighbor, a stranger, and a surprising new friend whose closure on a conflicted past is also just beginning.
So Long, Chester Wheeler is an uplifting novel about looking deeper into the heart and soul to form bonds with the last people we’d expect―only to discover that they’re the ones who need it most.
"Master storyteller, Catherine Ryan Hyde, is back following Dreaming of Flight with her latest, So Long, Chester Wheeler —another heartwarming, inspiring, witty, and uplifting tale of two unlikely characters. An unexpected friendship, a life-changing road trip, and some wise life lessons."
I love hanging out with her characters that jump off the page! The novel is an ideal pick for book clubs and further discussions. Book Club questions included.
Set in Buffalo, NY, we meet Lewis Madigan, a twenty-four-year-old gay man laid off from his six-figure software job. His partner left and moved without him to California. That was supposed to be their dream.
To make matters worse, he despises his next-door neighbor, Chester Wheeler. No one liked Chester, the sixty-nine-year-old man with lung cancer in a wheelchair. A hateful, mean, homophobic, and bitter older man. He could not keep an in-home health care worker, as he ran them all off.
When Chester's latest healthcare worker leaves, his daughter, Ellie (to be a new grandmother living out of state), is now desperate for help with her dad's care. She pleads with Lewis if he would fill the position. She thinks it would be great since he lives next door and needs a job. It does not matter he does not have healthcare experience.
Lewis dreads being around this man. He, of course, was not interested, but when the jobs did not come and he needed money, he decided to take it. Ellie is friendly and happy to accommodate Lewis in any way, and the money is good.
It was a rough go at first, but Lewis is firm with Chester and tries to get to the bottom of his unhappiness with life. He also has a 24 hr feed intercom between the homes at night which is annoying.
Then Chester comes up with the idea he wants Lewis to drive him from Buffalo to Arizona in his Winnebago. Could he be cooped up with this spiteful man like this for weeks to travel across the country?
Chester's ex-wife, Sue, is in Arizona, and it appears he has some things to get off his chest before it is too late. She also left him for his best friend, Mike, years ago.
However, Lewis feels guilty since this request is to fulfill the last wish of a dying man, so he agrees. He also makes another stop after Sue.
From the bumper stickers on the Winnebago to arguments about anything and everything, the detours, and ultimately the cross-country road trip is full of drama, exhaustion, scorecards, laughs, wise life lessons, and getting to know one another, both past and present.
Before the trip ends, Lewis has learned something about himself and his fellow traveler. Chester wasn't a great person, but he was a person.
"All the way down to my gut I got something I'd never gotten before. I got that when a person is rude and abusive to me, it's not about me at all." —Lewis Madigan, So Long, Chester Wheeler
What a journey! Ultimately, due to his experience with Chester, Lewis finds a new career and meets someone new. A Winnebago and more trips with more clients.
"Treat people well. Otherwise, you might die, and no one will notice or find it especially relevant to their life."
After caring for both Chester and Estelle, Lewis comes to know himself better. By the end, each main character has irrevocably altered the other's life. Everyone has something special they can bring to the world.
"We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us." —Joseph Campbell
I have so many favorites from CRH; however, this one is my favorite since Take Me With You! Full of unforgettable characters and written with Hyde's characteristic warmth, humor, and insight into people.
Beautifully written, a novel of making amends, apologies, forgiveness, and second chances.
Catherine Ryan Hyde is a long-time favorite author of mine, and I have read all her books and anxiously await the next masterpiece. She has a gift and a way with people, words, and places. .
She gets to the heart of the matter and uses her characters to learn wise lessons from one another. I enjoy how she often uses unlikely people and pairs them (Multi-generational, young and old) because they have so much to learn from one another.
Anytime I want to take a break from reading heavy psychological suspense thrillers or need an inspiriting story to lift my day or mood, I know I can pull out a Catherine Ryan Hyde book and escape in the beautiful journey. I always learn something and have that heartwarming feeling after reading one of her books.
If you have not read her books, I highly recommend them! For fans of Elizabeth Berg and Fredrik Backman.
I also purchased the book and the audiobook narrated by Michael Crouch (one of my favorite male narrators), which was superb!!!
@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks
My Rating: 5 Stars +++
Pub Date: Dec 6, 2022
Dec 2022 Must-Read Books
“Fans of Erica Bauermeister and Jan Karon will appreciate Hyde’s deft handling of the contrast between Chester’s vulnerability and Lewis’s emerging talents as a caretaker. So Long, Chester Wheeler is a testament to unlikely friendships and the power of hidden strengths.” —Booklist
About the Author
Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of more than 40 published and forthcoming books.
An avid hiker, traveler, equestrian, and amateur photographer and astrophotographer, she has a published book of photos, 365 DAYS OF GRATITUDE: PHOTOS FROM A BEAUTIFUL WORLD.
She is co-author, with fellow author and publishing industry blogger Anne R. Allen, of HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE: A SELF-HELP GUIDE.
Her novel PAY IT FORWARD was adapted into a major motion picture, chosen by the American Library Association for its Best Books for Young Adults list, and translated into more than 23 languages for distribution in over 30 countries. The paperback was released in October 2000 by Pocket Books and quickly became a national bestseller. Simon & Schuster released PAY IT FORWARD: YOUNG READERS' EDITION in August of '14. It is suitable for kids as young as eight. A special Fifteenth Anniversary Edition of the original PAY IT FORWARD was released in December of '14
LOVE IN THE PRESENT TENSE enjoyed bestseller status in the UK, where it broke the top ten, spent five weeks on the bestseller lists, was reviewed on a major TV book club, and shortlisted for a Best Read of the Year award at the British Book Awards. Both BECOMING CHLOE and JUMPSTART THE WORLD were included on the ALA's Rainbow List, and JUMPSTART THE WORLD was a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards. WHERE WE BELONG won two Rainbow Awards in 2013 and THE LANGUAGE OF HOOFBEATS won a Rainbow Award in 2015.
New Kindle editions of her backlist titles FUNERALS FOR HORSES, EARTHQUAKE WEATHER AND OTHER STORIES, ELECTRIC GOD, and WALTER'S PURPLE HEART are now available. Also available is THE LONG, STEEP PATH: EVERYDAY INSPIRATION FROM THE AUTHOR OF PAY IT FORWARD, her first book-length creative nonfiction.
More than 50 of her short stories have been published in The Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train and many other journals, and in the anthologies Santa Barbara Stories and California Shorts and the bestselling anthology Dog is my Co-Pilot. Her stories have been honored in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and the Tobias Wolff Award and nominated for Best American Short Stories, the O'Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize. Three have been cited in Best American Short Stories.
She is founder and former president (2000-2009) of the Pay It Forward Foundation, and served on its board of directors for over 20 years. As a professional public speaker she has addressed the National Conference on Education, twice spoken at Cornell University, met with Americorps members at the White House and shared a dais with Bill Clinton.
For more information and book club questions for most backlist titles, please visit the author at catherineryanhyde.com