Twelve Good Years by first time author Stephen Anthony begins with the idea that as we age, we can remain vital and interested, as well as interesting. This book is a look at a life after 65 that is relatively carefree and filled with as much adventure as one wishes. There is no Alzheimer’s, no poverty, no ill-behaved adult children, no ongoing lingering illnesses. There is instead freedom for the protagonist, David, a retired chef, to live as he wishes, there’s romance, there’s the occasional bit of odd excitement (the protagonist and his friend are temporarily jailed by the Federales in Mexico for drugs, though they are, of course, innocent), and there’s a peaceful ending. It’s a mellow read, a fictional recounting of one man’s satisfying last twelve years. 

We are inundated with stories of how old age is bad news, how as one ages, one falls apart, and life becomes dull and unsatisfying. It’s a breath of fresh air to read a novel with a fresh perspective, and Mr. Anthony gives us a portrait of a man living his dream of a quality retirement. It is a fantasy that just may be true for many people.

There isn’t much of a question of conflict within this book, unless one counts the occasional interference of the Federales, who swoop in periodically like the evil villains and then swoop out again. The other characters are all pleasant and friendly and everyone likes everyone else, even if some of the other characters can be annoying. Even the protagonist’s children are relatively easy to get along with, with only one daughter becoming worried enough about her father to make a trip to Mexico to visit him.

Otherwise, everyone accepts that he has a new life, and that he’s moved on and left them behind to live theirs. The conflict in David’s relationship with his daughter is restricted to minor griping about her car, a hybrid which doesn’t have enough power.

The true antagonist of this story is the ephemeral cultural conditioning and expectations of how we’re to live the balance of our lives, once we’ve retired and have outlived our usefulness. It is not necessary to retire to an ice floe waiting to die, nor is it necessary to live by what we “ought” to do, instead of what we want to do. Life does not end while we’re waiting to die, and, as Mr. Anthony says, “all of us SHOULD LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST BECAUSE WE ONLY GO AROUND ONCE!

Good advice.  

Twelve Good Years: A Retired Chef’s (Mis)Adventures in Mexico is available for sale online at Amazon.com, Borders.com, and through additional wholesale and retail channels worldwide.

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