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March 2005
One Vacant Chair
by Joe Coomer

In Joe Coomer’s One Vacant Chair, we meet Sarah, an overweight Christmas ornament designer struggling with her husband’s infidelity; her aunt Edna, a school lunch lady and painter whose subjects are always empty chairs; and other members of their family as they gather for the funeral of Edna’s mother. In quick, incisive, and very funny strokes, Coomer creates a set of distinctive and yet recognizable relatives. And when we learn that Sarah and Edna will be traveling together to fulfill Grandma’s odd last wish that her ashes be scattered in Scotland, we think we’re settling in for a “road trip” story about what the two women will learn about themselves during their odyssey. But Aunt Edna has some surprises for us, and One Vacant Chair ends up giving us that story and much more. In the end, the novel is a poignant and insightful meditation on life, death, and human dignity—but one that will also make you appreciate chairs in a way you never have before.

Watch the program [requires RealPlayer®].

Blurbs from the book jacket

Card catalog entry from the Library of Congress

Discussion questions for your reading group

Reader’s review from a bookclub viewer information page

Barnes and Noble information page

One Vacant Chair won the 2003 Sister Mariella Gable Prize for new fiction

And speaking of chairs—some chair paintings and stories

Joe Coomer

Coomer attended the University of Kentucky and earned a B.A. in English from Southern Methodist University in 1981. His books include Pocketful of Names, Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God, The Loop, Sailing in a Spoonful of Water, and Dream House. He lives in Texas and Maine.

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