Respect for his elders, Southern charm, an ear for authentic dialogue, and a great sense of humor are Clyde Edgerton's trademarks. Lunch at the Piccadilly is no exception. Lil Olive, lively octogenarian, fetches up at the Rosehaven Convalescent Center after a bad fall, but she is not ready to pack it in. Instead, she befriends several of her peers, plans outings which she executes by stealing a car she insists is hers, and starts laying bets on whether or not Clara removes her glass eye at night.
The center of the novel is Lil's middle-aged, never married nephew Carl. It has fallen to him to look after the women in his family: first his mother, then his Aunt Sarah and now Aunt Lil. He is the soul of patience and kindness, looking after Lil's needs, visiting her frequently and taking the ladies to lunch. He befriends L. Ray Flowers, a firebrand preacher who, because of an injury, is temporarily marooned at the Center. Flowers has an idea: "We are about to pronounce the grand fact that nursing homes and churches all across this land must become interchangeable... We need not two institutions... We need one. And it shall be called Nurches of America, Chursing Homes of the United States." In addition to his grandiose idea, he writes music and encourages Carl to take up the bass guitar again. Carl starts writing lyrics for L. Ray's music and, for a short while, preaching and singing rock the porch at Rosehaven. Inevitably, time and the past catch up with Lil and L. Ray, but not before Carl has found a new creative outlet that gives him some purpose in life other than selling awnings.
Edgerton's Raney and Walking Across Egypt are better novels, with tighter plots and more fully realized characters, but Lunch at the Piccadilly is unmistakably Edgerton, and that's not bad. --Valerie Ryan