The Last Resort

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In THE LAST RESORT, Alison Lurie, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist of FOREIGN AFFAIRS (1985), looks at life in Key West, Florida, from the standpoints of characters facing a variety of crises. Barbie Mumpson, for example, travels to Key West trying to come to terms with a philandering husband whose political ambitions rest on her ability to forgive and forget. Barbie’s concerns, however, seem small when compared to others who spend their holidays in this tropical clime. Mollie Hopkins faces a limited life with arthritis. Perry Jackson learns he is HIV-positive, and Wilkie and Jenny Walker try to patch together a marriage that seems doomed to failure. Key West becomes a metaphor for the last opportunity, a paradise where anything and everything might be possible. In THE LAST RESORT, Lurie uses characters in varying stages of crisis to illustrate how people cope with and overcome confrontations with death or the realization of a life unfulfilled.

Alison Lurie’s talents lay in her success at depicting these characters realistically, but with warmth and concern; her portrait of Wilkie Walker, particularly, showcases her humanity in creating a cranky, sexist, and homophobic older man who is vilified and cherished with equal measure. Though lush with Key West descriptions and vivid with these portraitures of residents in crisis, Lurie sometimes fails to create believable plot shifts. Characters such as Jenny Walker, who changes from a devoted and patronized housewife into the free-spirited lover of another woman, seem to defy the realistic conventions which Lurie otherwise painstakingly maintains.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. XCIV, June 1, 1998, p. 1725.

Library Journal. CXXIII, May 1, 1998, p. 138.

New Statesman. CXXVII, May 22, 1998, p. 56.

The New York Review of Books. XLV, November 5, 1998, p. 23.

The New York Times Book Review. CIII, July 12, 1998, p. 7.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, April 27, 1998, p. 41.

The Spectator. CCLXXX, June 13, 1998, p. 40.

The Times Literary Supplement. May 22, 1998, p. 8.

The Wall Street Journal. June 26, 1998, p. W9.

The Washington Post Book World. XXVIII, July 19, 1998, p. 3.