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Eliot's Tale by Gary Carter

Eliot's Tale

by Gary Carter

484 pages
A touching and humorous reverse coming-of-age tale.

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Category: Fiction:Literary
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About the Book
It’s not the usual mid-life temptations, maybe a young chick or a new Harley, that have Eliot Smith casting about restlessly as he enters his fiftieth year on the planet.

What Eliot finds troubling as he looks back over his life is the nagging admonition in the Book of Common Prayer that he perhaps has been remiss “by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” So, rather than sweating the mysteries of tomorrow, this basically nice guy (okay, with a few kinks) decides to sail forth from Richmond, Virginia in his beloved 1985 Mercedes, left to him by a squirrelly aunt, to answer the questions of yesterday in an attempt at resolution. Taped to the dash, drawn from his favorite work of the poet after whom he’s named, is a single quote: “What we call the beginning is often the end/And to make an end is to make a beginning./The end is where we start from.”

Wrestling a sabbatical from a reluctant boss, Eliot leaves behind a testy wife already bothered by his current state of existence and an evolving teenage daughter to undertake a quest for enlightenment. Meandering from Virginia to Mississippi to Arizona and points in between, from family to long-lost friends to strangers with an intersecting tale, the solo traveler finds that he can crack open doors and others will tell him things he wanted or needed to know, letting him deal with things done or left undone, for better or worse. What he finds and hears ranges from the outrageously funny to the deadly serious, while his own observations on his small-town upbringing and coming of age in the 1960s can be insightful, troubled, lewd or just plain hilarious.

As he travels, Eliot also finds that all is not well back at home, as he accidentally discovers that his beloved wife is engaged in a spiraling online affair that is heating up as he gets farther away. Observing clandestinely from afar, he is forced to endure pangs of distrust as he attempts to understand and, more importantly, determine a solution before the ultimate damage is done.

Eliot, like many his age, is at a point where he often feels that his life, while not exactly what he envisioned, is all he has left. Like Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe and Phillip Roth’s Nathan Zuckerman, he struggles to understand and cope with his existence, haunted by uncertainties of the past and future. But maybe there is still time for change or at least an opportunity to be somehow redeemed. And, perhaps most important, how to arrive back where he started, because as the other Eliot wrote: “We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all of our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time.”



About the Author
Gary Carter is a writer, editor and consultant living in Charlotte, North Carolina.



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