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Alamance Reads Selection 2011
Prate Marshbanks proposed to his future wife on a muggy July night at Pete's Drive-in back in '52. "She said yes to me between bites of a slaw burger all-the-way." A college graduate and daughter of a prominent lawyer, Irene was an unlikely match for Prate, a high school dropout. He lived his married life aware of the question on people's minds: "How in the world did a tall, thin, fair-skinned beauty and one of the most respected high school English teachers in all of Greenville County, in all of South Carolina for that matter, wind up married to a short, dark, fat-faced, jug-eared house painter?" That their marriage not only survived for fifty years, but flourished, is a source of constant wonder to Prate. But now he faces a new challenge with Irene.
The Pleasure Was Mine is the story of three men: Prate, his grown son Newell, and his nine-year-old grandson Jackson — as they come to terms with the fading of Irene, heart and center of the family. Set in Greenville and Western North Carolina, the book is narrated by Prate, a prickly house painter who retires to care for Irene. As Prate adjusts to these life changes, Newell, a recently widowed art teacher in Asheville, needs to spend the summer at Penland, an art colony in the mountains. He leaves Jackson, his reticent, bookish son, with Prate for the summer, and Prate finds himself in the uncomfortable position of having to get to know his moody grandson.
Tommy Hays, the author of In the Family Way and Sam's Crossing, renders an unforgettable character in Prate, who, as he copes with his wife's illness, establishes new bonds with his widowed son and grandson. This is a heartfelt, redemptive story about the power and resilience of family.