Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
385 pg plus Interview and Reader's Guide
"He felt as if he was being left behind on the docks..."
Major Ernest Pettigrew just learned that his only brother has died. First his wife and now Bertie. "He felt as if he was being left behind on the docks..." Jasmina Ali, who runs his favorite tea shop, stops by soon after Major Pettigrew receives the news. Due to a shared understanding of loss, an unlikely friendship arises. Their mutual love of tea and books lead to Sunday afternoon readings and walks along the cliff. These small snippets of time are the most anticipated moment in lives that are slowly being changed by outside forces.
Jasmina's nephew has come to help her run the shop. Women of her age are expected to step aside and let the men, and the younger generation, take care of them. Abdul Wahid will know how to run the shop and Jasmina can "learn to be content at home".
Major Pettigrew's father left him and his brother Bertie one Churchill each. The Major has always felt that he should have had both guns since he was the oldest. The only saving grace was that when one of the brothers passed away, the guns would be reunited through the surviving sibling. Bertie's family thinks there should be another solution. Since Colonel Pettigrew never put his thoughts into his will, his wife and daughter believe they can do whatever they want with "their" Churchill. And what they want is to sell it. Roger, Major Pettigrew's son, agrees. Unlike Major Pettgrew, Roger wants to get ahead as quickly and painlessly as possible and he's not above using the family name to do so.
The more time Major Pettigrew spends with Jasmina, sharing their troubles and Kipling's poetry, his affection for her grows. Soon he's faced with a dilemma. Jasmina has never truly been accepted in their small village but the major has no desire to upset the normal order. He's an upstanding member of the local church and the local golf club. She's a woman of color, an outsider, and a tradeswoman. Her family is also involved in a small scandal. Wouldn't it be better all around if they just went their separate ways?
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand unfolds slowly, mimicking the relationship of Ernest and Jasmina. The major has a mostly full life of reading, golf, and friends. He's on good terms with the Vicar and he supplies wooden animals for the nativity, just as his father did before him. Tradition is everything. Tradition plays a huge part in Jasmina's life too. Her late husband, Ahmet, left the shop to her, but she knows that it's time to step aside and move to Pakistan. Despite their obligations, the objections of those around them, and their own hidden prejudices we are able to see Ernest's and Jasmina's relationship unfurl and blossom. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is worth the read. I encourage you to pick it up, set aside a weekend, put on the tea and enjoy.
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