Longtime San Miguel Visitor Releases Second Novel
By Lou Christine
Travel writer Peter Ferry released his latest novel, Old Heart, on June 8, published by Unbridled Books. Freelance travel writer and retired schoolteacher Ferry oscillates between Illinois and Michigan, yet he and wife Carolyn have been steady San Miguel visitors, often wintering here. Peter has been visiting SMA since 1971, first arriving on the say of fellow writer Walter Tevis, who wrote The Hustler here during the ‘50s. Many recall the film adaptation starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason.
During prolonged visits in 2009 and 2010, Ferry penned much of Old Heart right here! When I say penned, it’s fair to say Ferry composes in long hand. Old Heart portrays a man in the twilight of his life willing to take a quantum leap to rekindle lost love, plus the story depicts a resolute man hell-bent on maintaining his independence. Rather than mine, here’s the Chicago Tribune’s review:
“In this standout novel, Ferry (Travel Writing) depicts one man’s post-War War II struggle with love, loss, and personal freedom. Widower Tom Johnson is an 85-year-old retired Mid-western schoolteacher secretly planning to search in Holland for his first love of 60 years ago, a Dutch translator named Sarah van Praag. Prior to being shipped home, Tom and Sarah quarreled and never said goodbye. He returned to America, married and had three children; a disappointing marriage has always left Tom wondering about Sarah and the divergent paths they took. When his children insist on moving him to assisted living, Tom carefully plans his exit for Holland without telling anyone but his trusted granddaughter. Surprises and setbacks challenge Tom as he searches for Sarah; he is forced to fight his children in court for the freedom to remain abroad and live on his own terms. A lesser writer might muddle the myriad themes and shifting time frames, but Ferry’s superb writing — including a deft treatment of a story within a story — allow all to mesh seamlessly, resulting in a life-affirming novel about love and second chances; the rights, integrity, and freedom of the elderly; and the toll of mistakes and disappointments. Tom counsels himself near the end: Life is both tragic and beautiful…every day is a carefully wrapped present.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Dave Eggers of the L.A. Times called Ferry’s first book, Travel Writing, “a perfect first novel.” Eggers wrote of Old Heart, “It has the power to change lives!” New Yorker contributor Elizabeth McKenzie calls Old Heart “a wry and beautiful and exuberant novel.”
Ferry’s travel pages are often published in the Chicago Tribune. His short fiction has appeared in McSweeneys, Story Quarterly, The New Review of Literature and others. A few years back, during one of his stays here, Ferry snooped around San Miguel seeking the scoop on “the beats”, a la Neal Cassady and other notorious characters. Ferry received The Illinois Arts Council Award for Short Fiction.
Old Heart is available for Kindle and from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com