One Vacant Chair
by Joe Coomer
From the book jacket of the 2003 first edition (Graywolf Press):
Its where you sit down that determines everything in life.
Sarahs aunt Edna paints portraits of chairs. Not people in chairs, just chairs. The old house is filled with the paintings, and the chairs themselves surround her worka silent yet vigilant audience. At the funeral of Grandma Huttonwhom Edna has cared for through an agonizingly long and vague illnessSarah begins helping her aunt clean up the last of a life. This includes honoring Grandmas surprising wish to have her ashes scattered in Scotland.
We were two fat women, eighteen years apart, a chair artist and a designer of Christmas ornaments, who only knew we had troubles and a hot summer to get through, says Sarah. But as it turns out, there is a great deal more to her quirky aunts troubles than Sarah could possibly imagine. As the novel turns from the hot, oppressive heat of Texas to the misty beauty of Scotland, she learns of her aunt Ednas remarkable secret life and comes to truly understand the fragile business of living and even dying.
Joe Coomer is the author of Apologizing to Dogs, Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God, The Loop, Sailing in a Spoonful of Water, and an award-winning book of nonfiction, Dream House. He lives in Texas and Maine.
A marvelously creative comic writer.
The Washington Times
Impossible to resist.
The New Yorker
Coomer writes so well, with such freshness and authenticity, that we hate to put his book down.
The Boston Globe
Joe Coomer is blessed with a rich, Southern voicestrong, clear and full of poetry.
Coomer manages to write the world into a small space, and like a brain surgeon with his scalpel, wields his pen accurately and incisively. A master of lyric brevity.