Billington, Texas, might be a small town, but readers of Bobby Finger’s exquisite debut novel, The Old Place, will quickly fall in love with this boondock burg and its make-you-laugh, break-your-heart characters ... small-town drama at its best ... One of the most remarkable things about The Old Place is how Finger, a 30-something Texas native and Brooklyn podcaster has so superbly captured the hearts and souls of this trio of 60-ish women. The novel is an extended meditation on the great joys and enduring heartaches of long-term relationships—and the hard work that’s required to maintain these bonds. Finger is fully cognizant of his characters’ many flaws, noting, for instance, that stubborn Mary Alice has at times been capable of raising 'so much hell they almost had to call in an exorcist.' His portrayal of Mary Alice and Katherine’s love-hate relationship over the years is particularly poignant ... A broad supporting cast adds depth, drama and even romance to the mix. There’s also plenty of humor ... Finger has created his own kind of Lake Wobegon: a vibrant literary locale that readers will be loath to leave. Here’s hoping for more tantalizing, tempestuous tales.
... unforgettable ... hits the rare and satisfying double note of harrowing and delightful ... Mary Alice Roth is a compelling, although decidedly prickly, protagonist; secondary characters only sweeten this heart-wrenching, warm-and-fuzzy small-town drama ... By the novel's second half, everyone is more nuanced than they originally seemed, and the fictional Billington feels as multifaceted and significant as any real hometown. Finger is expert at the careful disclosure of one secret after another, and his characters capture hearts and imaginations. His novel beautifully profiles the iconic small town, both holding it accountable and celebrating its quiet humanity ... The messiness, pain and grace of these relationships are candidly portrayed in a story that will inspire laughter and tears, making this debut a memorable achievement indeed.
Finger delves into the intricate entanglements of a small Texas town with flinty, sharply observed affection ... do not expect cowboy swagger or cartoonish hayseeds from Finger, who grew up in Texas. At the novel’s center, unwillingly retired math teacher Mary Alice Roth is a jigsaw puzzle of a character, as complicated as any Henry James hero ... Finger handles the nature of Kenny and Michael’s friendship and the town’s reaction with unexpected nuance, showing the problematic confusion in how people see themselves, see others, and assume they are seen by others. What could have turned melodramatic becomes an exploration of the danger of unnecessary secrets ... A surprising page-turner—homey, funny, yet with dark corners of anger and grief.