Picks and Pans Review: Lunch at the Piccadilly

updated 10/06/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/06/2003 01:00AM

By Clyde Edgerton
NOVEL

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Dishwater is enthralling compared with Carl Turnage. Middle-aged, single and squeaky-voiced, the North Carolina part-time construction overseer has no friends except his Aunt Lil, who has just entered a nursing home. But that sad turn of events does wonders for Carl's social life, giving him a group of pixilated seniors to hang out with, not to mention that nice divorced mom who works in the office. It's almost too much excitement for Carl to handle.

Edgerton gently serves up the shortcomings of his characters—did we mention that Carl is vertically challenged?—with generous dollops of comic sympathy. The ladies at the home yearn for nothing so much as a drive to the mall by themselves, and the scene where their wish comes true is rich with humor, suspense and sadness. Details matter to Edgerton, and he uses them to create a vivid and affecting portrait of the way many of us struggle—and, when possible, take comfort—in the real world.

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