BookBrowse Reviews Last Will by Bryn Greenwood

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Last Will

by Bryn Greenwood

Last Will by Bryn Greenwood X
Last Will by Bryn Greenwood
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  • Paperback:
    Apr 2012, 284 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Judy Krueger
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A richly detailed novel about a down-and-out man, a billionaire's fortune, and unlikely love

Bernie Raleigh is a 30-year-old man to whom nothing good has ever happened. He is the grandson and sole heir of the richest man in Oklahoma City. Kidnapped when he was almost 10 by a local psychopath hoping for a large ransom, he was traumatized, psychoanalyzed to no avail, rejected by his mother, and grows up to be a useless failure. However, he finally finds a job he likes as a librarian and hides away in Kansas City. When his grandfather dies, Bernie finds himself back in the Raleigh mansion, the loneliest and most confused billionaire in the world.

Meda Amos is a direct descendant of two Russian immigrant sisters who were forced to turn to prostitution when their parents died of influenza in the 1800s. Meda is both blessed and cursed with great beauty, making her irresistible to men. She is raising a daughter, working as a maid at the Raleigh mansion, living with her aging grandmother and trying to look out for her alcoholic mom, who believes in UFOs and alien abduction.

With exquisite wry tenderness, Bryn Greenwood has written a modern Cinderella tale. Last Will is an almost perfect summer read, a romance set in the freezing cold Oklahoma winter, told in three first-person voices: Bernie, Meda, and Aunt Ginny, who is Bernie's aunt, guardian angel, and fairy godmother. As soon as I turned the last page, I wanted to go to the beginning and read it all over again; I suspect I may reread this captivating story many times in the years to come.

Ms. Greenwood made me love her characters, introducing them so smoothly I felt I already knew them and would never forget them. The back-stories of Bernie and Meda are expertly revealed in bits, giving out details only as needed to further the plot.

Because of his past, Bernie's depression and wish to be anonymous combine with the unconscious assurance of the rich, making him an unpredictable mix of hapless kindness and hopeless estrangement from others. Because of her past, Meda is tough, wise beyond her years, but oh so conflicted about the attentions of this rich young man. Watching them grope towards understanding as they help each other heal is maddening but irresistible.

Last Will is consummate storytelling. In the tradition of Charles Dickens, Alexander Dumas, George Eliot, or Jane Austen, it is a deeply engaging tale of romance, money, tragedy, and society with a healthy dose of humor and a respect for love. So curl up with the A/C on and tell your reading groups.

Reviewed by Judy Krueger

This review first ran in the August 8, 2012 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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Beyond the Book:
  Introducing Bryn Greenwood

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