Monday, December 20, 2021

The Last Noel: Michael Malone

This is a Christmas story, as the title indicates, with a serious topic.

Following is the description from the back of the book:

The Last Noel captures the exuberance and poignance of a lasting friendship between a man and a woman from very different backgrounds. Noni Tilden and Kaye King grow up and grow close as their lives come dramatically together through four decades of tumultuous change in a small southern town.

The story begins in 1963 when Kaye first meets Noni on the eve of their seventh birthdays. On that Christmas Eve, Kaye climbs through her bedroom window to invite her to come sledding with him in a rare southern snowfall. 

The story takes place in the small town of Moors, North Carolina. Noni (real name Noelle) is the daughter of the Tilden family, a rich and privileged family that has lived in the area for many years.  Kaye is the grandson of the Tilden's black maid, who has worked for the Tildens for years. Kaye and Noni's relationship is viewed through twelve Christmases, starting in 1963 and ending in 2003. 

The two main characters are both flawed, but very sympathetic. Many secondary characters are also memorable. My favorite is Kaye's grandfather (by marriage), Tatlock, a very vocal, colorful character who later in life starts painting and gains fame for his paintings.

I don't often read books set in the South, but this one covered from 1963 through the 1990s and handled racism and politics of that time pretty well. I enjoyed it because it is well-written and touches on events that happened in my own lifetime; it covers the Viet Nam war, politics, civil rights, the moon landing, and the music over the decades. 

The description at the publisher's website emphasizes the romance in this book, which there is little of. The description on the back of my book focuses on the lifelong friendship between the two main characters.

I have read two of Michael Malone's mysteries and some of his short stories. The crime fiction stories are darker. My review of Time's Witness is here and reviews of short stories from Red Clay, Blue Cadillac: Stories of Twelve Southern Women are here and here. This book was very different; it was a much more sentimental story.


Publisher:  Sourcebooks, 2002.
Length:     292 pages
Format:    Trade paperback
Setting:     North Carolina
Genre:      Historical Fiction
Source:     Purchased in 2005.


Cath said...

I like the sound of this very much. Perhaps not what I would usually pick up but I thought maybe I would aim for 'different' and more varied next year so this might be a possibility.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Read and liked Time's Witness and I wonder why I didn't read more of him.

TracyK said...

Cath, I usually stick with mysteries set at Christmas for my Christmas reading but those often are not much about the season. Not that that matters so much to me. This one is definitely different.

TracyK said...

Patti, I thought both of the crime fiction books I read were very good, and need to get to the third in the series. I read somewhere that all his books are different and I have several other books by him on my shelves to try.

Rick Robinson said...

Sounds interesting, especially for someone from the South like yourself. Glad you enjoyed it!

TracyK said...

Rick, Michael Malone is one of the few Southern writers that I like. But I am trying to broaden my horizons. A lot of the stuff about the South I don't want to be reminded of, although I am sure some of the problems are more universal than I realized.

Lark said...

I've never even heard of this author, but I do like the sound of this book. :)

TracyK said...

Lark, I don't remember how I found this author's books, but I read the first of his mystery series in 2005. At one time (early 90s?) Michael Malone was head writer for the soap opera One Life to Live, which I thought was interesting. I am sure some of his books are somewhat like soap operas, but definitely not the two mystery novels I read.