A doctor who is hiding his reasons for becoming a janitor, a senior community abuzz with the arrival of a new member, a sleazy property owner with a BIG gambling problem, an oh-so-attractive podiatrist treating the elderly's mostly real mobility problems, a gorgeous character from the past, and various lottery tickets make for a humorous, yet outlandish, story. For new author (and practicing eye surgeon) P.D. Bekendam, it is a lot to juggle. Nothing of the magnitude that John Irving hasn't delightfully handled, but Bekendam takes on a bit too much with the addition of a serious religious discussion toward the end of the book.
Prime of Life starts out as a fun read peppered with descriptive writing: "...his bushy white eyebrows perform a frustrated dance" and "His entire wardrobe consists of neon garments, giving him the appearance he strayed from a tropical fish tank." The initial plot pulls readers in. We start to wonder why Ben is content to clean floors, just as we learn more about the main characters at Heritage Gardens and their delightfully real quirks. At the same time, concerned and wily seniors begin probing Ben's past. Their growing interest conveniently coincides with the arrival of one residents' favorite niece—a vision from Ben's past.
This is about the time that readers might utter, "Oh, come on!" as the somewhat unbelievable scenarios start piling up. After an amusing funeral scene, the plot's bad guy starts yet another chain reaction concerning an errant lottery ticket. Thankfully, all does not work out when trying to collect the big payout, so the plot twist starts to seem more plausible. It becomes clear that the extremely sympathetic Dr. Ben has to start facing his demons, as the attractive Lex Kentucky and visiting Hailey force his memories into a duel with his desires.
Unfortunately this is about the time Heritage Gardens' favorite Professor, aka Jerry, begins pushing a religious agenda. Yes, the description I read for this book included "inspirational," but I foresaw Ben returning to his practice and managing his obsessive urges. I wish this novel had been correctly identified as religious fiction. The author also includes a mystical element that doesn't quite jive with my understanding of conventional Christianity.
Prime of Life starts out as an interesting, lively read. Even when additional twists are added, Bekendam keeps readers rooting for these real, flawed, characters. But it isn't fair to conclude the book on such a serious note disguised as whimsy.