It’s not often a book moves me to the extent The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray did. This isn’t what I consider a typical Walter Mosley book; there’s no private investigator, no mysteries to be solved. The authenticity of the story caused me to ponder whether anyone I know may be in a situation similar to that of the protagonist, and if so, what I can do to improve that individual’s quality of life.
At 91 years of age, Ptolemy Gray realizes he’s lost the ability to think clearly. He’s dependent upon a nephew to assist him with banking and shopping, until the nephew isn’t available. Mosley places the reader inside Ptolemy’s head as he works through understanding what others say, prepares his response, and often journeys where his tangential thoughts lead. Ptolemy’s squalid living situation is startlingly depicted with such realism that I itched as I listened to the audiobook. Circumstances change when a teenager enters his life and assists Ptolemy in obtaining medical attention that provides Ptolemy a reprieve from confusion.
Ptolemy is first portrayed as an elder to be pitied, dwindling due to the limitations of age. With medication, he transforms into a man respected due to his great mind and heart, who’s able to accomplish what he had been trying to remember.
If only The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray were required reading for all who have aging friends, relatives, and neighbors (e.g., everyone), would companionship and assistance to the elderly who live alone be the norm? What a great book to better understand humaneness.