Can books with outrageously long titles live up to their names? Maybe not this one. All Shall Be Well; and All Shall Be Well; and All Manner of Things Shall Be Well starts with a hilarious premise: an aging American who revels in medieval re-enactments tries to recover his ties to his children, who have drifted away after one too many eccentricities, including a complete reliance on his wife and son for all practical details including earning a living… The description of the earnest would-be medievalists, who dress the part and eschew such modern implements as cars (obviously) but also oranges and drinking water (they go for mead instead) is funny and clever. Who knew it would be so difficult to pretend to live in the Middle Ages for a day only to be foiled by a jet plane flying overhead?
So what’s the rub? The book just grinds to a halt amidst the revellers and the children, all ideas spent, and it seems that the transatlantic action was just a pretext to show off that the author was comfortable on two continents. Too bad!
Breakfast at Sally’s is a clumsy but very inspirational (as promised by the subtitle) exposition about the homeless, centered on the author and his adored dog but chronicling the lives of dozens of others who become homeless through bad luck, addictions of some kind or other, or both. LeMieuxcaptures the surprisingly tight-knit society of the homeless in the Washington town where he lives. Just like in any other social group there are generous souls, losers, fixers, children and the very old, exploiters and helpers. If you stick with the descriptions and skip the (not many) pages of haranguing the book works very well.
It’s clear that a rich society should be able to help the downtrodden more effectively. The book describes many homeless people who can, and sometimes do hold down jobs and would need just a small push to live in decent conditions. Why are they shoved on a two-year waiting list (with young kids too)? The problem is more complicated for the many who are unable to work but surely we could and should provide decent housing for the working poor, especially since it seems that a modest amount of help for the deposit would solve many problems.