Three self-proclaimed “old bags” run off to a Greek island to escape their children and grandchildren.
At first, barefoot and contented, they think they’ve rediscovered the wheel. But then things begin to go awry. Dionysus, a local poet, takes up with Bess, at least until his wife gets wind of things. Dania, a therapist, is being stalked by one of her patients. And Ruth’s ex-lover turns up out of the blue, closely followed by the man who lost Bess her fortune. It doesn’t help when the children and grandchildren also start turning up whenever they feel like it. As Bess writes in one of Ruth’s weekly “Granny à Go Go” columns, this is not an Enchanted April sort of year.
“If on its surface The Last Laugh is a warts-and-all repudiation of the late-in-life female empowerment yarn as typified by the movies Enchanted April and ‘Shirley Valentine,’ the gimlet-eyed Freed is intent on something deeper and more unsettling. Can we ever really absent ourselves, even briefly, from the important people in our lives? Is it lunacy to think we have an essential self — a self that exists outside our relationships to other people? Why is freedom so terrifying? … Freed’s candor works to lift the veil off the misperception that life after 60 consists mostly of conversations about sciatica or ceaseless and slightly abject devotion to a tiny, shivery dog.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“‘Geezer Lit’ has become a booming publishing niche as we readers wrinkle, but The Last Laugh is so much more than a print version of The Golden Girls. Freed’s one-liners on subjects like sleep apnea machines are hilarious; so are the excerpts from Ruth’s columns, which she writes for a senior publication called So Long Magazine. But Freed also gives more somber subjects their due, such as loneliness and the fear of looming dependence. The Last Laugh is a Campari spritzer of a novel: bubbly and colorful, but with a underlying note of bitterness to add satisfying complexity.”
—Maureen Corrigan, NPR
“[Freed’s] dramatic scenes of stalking, adultery, murder and reincarnation make The Last Laugh a superb option for a comic thriller movie … Freed nimbly dramatizes the strengths and flaws of the women as they discover freedom from work and family … Sometimes the exuberant burlesque is hard to follow because the women command a complicated retinue of minor characters. Freed wisely opens the novel with descriptions of the 19 ‘Dramatis Personae,’ a list to which this reader frequently returned. Clearly, Freed had a blast zipping through the adventures of these spirited, droll women. She excels at their frank, snappy repartee. And she surprises readers to the end, with an epilogue launching the four friends on new escapades in their 70s.”
―San Francisco Chronicle
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (July 3, 2017)
Hardcover: 208 pages