Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (2010)

by Helen Simonson

In his late sixties, the widowed Major Ernest Pettigrew has settled done into an uneventful, predictable life as a senior citizen of the English village of Edgecombe St. Mary. Yet change happens.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand opens with Major (as everyone calls him) getting the news that his younger brother Bertie has died of a heart attack. A Pakistani widow whose family owns the local convenience store just happens to be the first person to see Major after he gets his sister-in-law’s phone call, and Mrs. Ali’s sympathy ignites a bond between them. As a love of books and shared sensibilities draw them together, the very proper Major realizes that some of his neighbors don’t approve of his letting a Pakistani woman into his life. Major is also trying to delicately negotiate with his dreadful sister-in-law to reunite a pair of Churchill pistols—Bertie had one, he the other—as their father intended. She and her daughter have other ideas—as does Major’s crass son Robert, whose values are material, not sentimental. Adding to the Major’s stresses, a real estate developer wants to create a luxury residential development in Edgecombe St. Mary that will back up to his property—and Robert wants to be a player in the deal. Mrs. Ali has problems, too: Her late husband’s family expects her to turn over the store to her nephew and retire into invisibility.

As the town watches the Major and Mrs. Ali’s growing friendship with distaste, the both of them come to realize that there are more important things than not giving offense to people who are narrow-minded and bigoted. The author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand grew up in an English village much like Edgecombe St. Mary before moving to the United States. Billed as a quiet, gentle read, the debut novel nevertheless encompasses some big topics, including the possibility of love at any age, family and community relations, prejudice, and greed.


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