Bedside Matters Synopsis

Bedside Matters, the fifth novel by painter and writer Richard Alther, enlivens its singular setting with an unexpected journey at life’s end for one man.

Walter had mastered the business world at an unaccounted cost to discover in old age and ill-health a disease that would render his body useless. Walter is a complicated man now captured in the gilded cage of his mansion, watching the world, his world, go by without him.

Visitors with agendas appear to remind him of his life and responsibilities: Walter’s ex-wife Polly, a voluptuous handful as he would describe her, Paula, his chip-off-the-old block all-business daughter, Gavin, his attractive and irresponsible son with a dodgy track record, and the irrepressible daydreams and memories that flood his consciousness with emotions long shunned.

While Walter reads the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi’s work, his inner life takes on a new shape, as his body continues to betray him and deteriorate. He says a long, reluctant goodbye while engaging a side to life that has been unexplored until now.

The natural world in the garden outside his window pleasures as he battles pain. New people enter his world to invigorate his last days, including his physical therapist Tressie, a woman so enticing he counts the minutes between visits.

Succession becomes an obsession with Paula as she builds her empire, and Gavin tries to start over again after another stint in rehab. Walter watches them play the game of life as he becomes a mere observer from the solitude of his stately manor, lost and found in his thoughts. For the first time, he seems to experience life as a poet would, even as the inevitable end comes closer.

A cinematic non-linear take and frank examination of the promise of life, even at its end, Bedside Matters concern us all at one time or another as we ask the ultimate question: what matters most?


Bedside Matters by Richard Alther

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