Title: Lester Lies Down
Author: James Ladd Thomas
Publisher: Vine Leaves Press
Publication date: October 4, 2022
One Sentence Summary: After the death of his wife, Lester has decided to become a hospice nurse, but things go awry when one of his patients brings him back in contact with an old friend who needs a bit of help from him.
Lester Lies Down is a surprisingly fun novel that dealt with things like death and weed, but it was the characters that really held my attention throughout this book. I liked Lester and his friends and family. They were all a lot of fun, and I liked how they were there for each other. There were two main plots that weren’t exactly woven perfectly well together, but overlapped enough that it felt like one ran into the other. This starts off as Lester starts his first solo day as a hospice nurse. I liked seeing him in this role because it really showed a thoughtful, professional part of him as he helped patients and their families deal with imminent death. The second half of the story was about a young woman walking back into Lester’s life. Ardor was once a neighbor of Lester and his late wife, and now she’s in trouble because she and her boyfriend skimmed some weed off their ex-employers and now the employers want the money they got for selling the weed. This led to some fun and thrilling sequences as Lester and his friends tried to get her out of town. Separately, these two parts were fun, but I would have loved to see them woven together better. Lester Lies Down, though, really shone when it came to the characters, and I loved spending the duration of the book with them.
The thing that drew me to this book was how the description made Lester just sound like an odd man with odd things happening in his life. In a nutshell, that really is what Lester Lies Down is all about. Lester is an odd man, though he has a heart of gold, and odd things start to happen to him when he starts his first solo day as a hospice nurse. This started out as a slice of life style story, but turned into the story of Lester helping an old friend evade trouble. It was fun with some definite odd moments, but there’s a lot of heart that went into the characters and story. I loved that they really cared about each other, and I loved that it painted a fairly ordinary life.
Lester Lies Down is a fast read despite dealing with things like imminent death and a former budtender being on the run because she and her boyfriend skimmed some weed from their employers and made thousands of dollars. It was a bit of a wild ride at the end, but I liked it because the first half made me a little afraid I was just going to be reading about Lester tending to his dying patients while having to deal with three children who couldn’t have been less alike. I really liked that the story switched just when I started to get a little antsy with doing the rounds with Lester, but I also wish the two parts of the story had been woven together a little better so I could see them both playing out at the same time. The first half didn’t have much to do with weed and the second half didn’t have as much to do with Lester’s job as a hospice nurse.
Lester, though, was a very interesting character. The first chapter paints him as definitely odd, as a man who just likes to randomly lie down to help calm his mind. It’s proposed that he’s on the autism spectrum, but, as I read further on, I can’t say I saw many traits of autism in him. Instead, he seemed like a fairly normal guy with a good heart having to deal with three children on his own. He has some fascinating neighbors and some interesting friends, and just seemed to be trying his best to live a good, ordinary life.
And then Ardor walks back into his life. I got the impression she was a bit younger than him, but, by the end, I suppose the age difference wasn’t as major as I initially thought. She was a fun character, one Lester had known years before when she and her boyfriend lived down the street from Lester and his late wife. I liked how casually she dealt with everything, but sometimes her lack of caring got her in trouble and it bothered me when it potentially put Lester’s kids in danger. Still, she had some great lines and I had a fantastic time reading her, even if I wasn’t a big fan of the romance, but it was okay because it was mostly hinted at.
All of the characters were a ton of fun. The patients at death’s door were particularly fun because they knew they were dying and wanted to get as much fun out of life as they could. There were some I wish I knew what happened to them in the end, but, what I got, was great. They really helped show what hospice is like and how lovely Lester’s heart is. But it also showed the other side as there are always the people left behind. I liked that Lester Lies Down dealt with these patients and their families with a thoughtful, gentle hand. It made it a lot easier to read about all these families about to be torn apart. But my favorite characters have to be Lester’s neighbors. From the boy who asks odd questions and makes inappropriate statements to the probably Native American guy who was just so cool to read because I could hear that stereotypical Native American voice in my head, they were all just fun characters who helped bring the story to life.
But I can’t forget about Lester’s kids. Jase is the oldest and really seemed to be taking that to heart. He’s a good kid keeping an eye on his younger siblings, especially Chuck, but he’s also still just a kid. Chuck is quite a character, and I’m glad I’m not his parent. He has a disturbing (to me) interest in things like sex and female nudity. I had fun reading about how it just puts Jase in knots. Lester really didn’t seem to know what to do with him and his curiosity, but I liked that he always tried and kept trying to steer Chuck into safer interests with patience and logic. Then there’s the one girl, Lizzy. She’s cute, but didn’t get as much page time. I liked her, though. She’s just a little girl who wants another girl in the house, and she just doesn’t seem bothered at all by her brothers. I thought her character was sweet, but I wanted more about her.
Lester Lies Down is set in Alabama and, while I got a taste of that, I struggle with really feeling like I was there. I would have liked the characters’ speech to make me feel more like I was in the South rather than just about anywhere, but I’ve never been to Alabama so maybe it is accurate. It’s just that I only remember the story is set in the South because they kept mentioning it, otherwise it felt like it was just somewhere in the US. It was a great place to visit, though, and I liked the bit of history regarding segregation and how people moved around between the different areas. I would have loved for that to have more of an impact on the story, but it was still nice to get that bit of history.
The story may be relatively short, but it packs it in, probably because a good chunk of the story is dialogue. The dialogue is fun, casual and a bit sarcastic. At the same time, it just kept coming so I sometimes felt a little bowled over, like the constant stream of dialogue just steamrolled over me. It definitely made for a very snappy read with some great lines and fantastic reactions. I just wish it had been slowed down a little. I liked the chapters that dealt with Lester’s job as a hospice nurse, and I really wish that had been threaded throughout the book a little more. As thrilling as it was to read about Lester and his friends trying to get Ardor hidden and out of town, I would have liked to see some conflict between that and his job. There are some scenes, but not as much as I would have liked. The plot about Ardor, though, was introduced at a great time, and I only wish the danger about her being back in town had been brought up a little sooner.
Lester Lies Down is definitely a fun story about an odd man where odd things start to happen to him. There’s a lot of sensitivity given about Lester’s job, though I could have done without all the philosophizing the characters tended to do. It felt a little like they were standing on a soapbox, and some of their stories came a little out of the blue, but I liked how it switched around so I never got bored. This was a fun, fast read, and I actually would have liked a little more, if only to spend a little more time with all of these fun characters.
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One thought on “Book Review: Lester Lies Down by James Ladd Thomas”
Very thorough. I’m glad you finally said where the title comes from. 😀 Sounds like the author did really well but *just* missed better.