Mrs. Rafton, Sowing and Reaping is an expose in story form of neglect, abuse and corruption in the nursing home industry.
Mrs. Sara Rafton manages to acquire an old Chicago apartment building through not-quite-legal means. When the decades-old furnace nearly burns the building down, she renovates the building and turns it into a cash-cow nursing home.
Through payoffs, kickbacks, creative bookkeeping and cutting as many corners as she can, Sara runs her nursing home, Mainstream, into the ground. She skims profit so deeply that patients die and are injured because of deplorable living conditions, neglect and downright abuse.
When Mona Lockhard is admitted to Mainstream, she is just another poor elderly woman. Left with only one arm and one leg from a long-ago accident, she has trouble communicating because of a stroke. She has no friends, no relatives, and no one who cares. Mona is just one more faceless, voiceless old person.
In truth, that’s not who Mona is at all. She is actually one of Chicago’s most powerful women. It is purely by accident that she finds herself alone, powerless and living at Mainstream.
Then Mona’s niece, Melody, finally locates her and rescues her. Melody goes undercover for Quality Government, an organization that investigates elder abuse, to investigate Mainstream, and eventually closes the nursing home down.
Melody falls in love with Quality Government’s boss and makes a career out of investigating nursing homes. That’s what she’s doing when she runs into a familiar-looking old woman sitting in a wheelchair. In an ironic twist, Sara Rafton is living in someone else’s cash-cow nursing home.
The irony emphasizes the point of the story, which is that any of us could find ourselves living in a nursing home, and it would be wise to take a good, hard look at how they are run.
Lola C. Hardaway knows the nursing home industry. She has been a nursing home administrator and is a trustworthy source for how bad it can get.
Hardaway’s settings are descriptive and realistic. The homes and offices of the wealthy Sara Raston and her colleague, Curtis Doyle, are a good contrast for the deplorable conditions at Mainstream. The story is well paced, too.
Hardaway’s characters, however, are flat and static. Mona is the same Mona, even after living at Mainstream. Melody is the same idealistic charmer, even after being nearly murdered by an abusive husband. And, until her ultimate fall into dementia, Sara is the same witch before and after the fall of Mainstream.
The story isn’t about the characters, though. It’s about Mainstream, and the nursing home industry.