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One of Vanity Fair's Best Books of the Year
A bighearted and moving debut about a wry retired schoolteacher whose decade-old secret threatens to come to light and send shockwaves through her small Texas town.
Billington, Texas, is a place where nothing changes. Well, almost nothing. For the first time in nearly four decades, Mary Alice Roth is not getting ready for the first day of school at Billington High. A few months into her retirement—or, district mandated exile as she calls it—Mary Alice does not know how to fill her days. The annual picnic is coming up, but that isn’t nearly enough since the menu never changes and she had the roles mentally assigned weeks ago. At least there’s Ellie, who stops by each morning for coffee and whose reemergence in Mary Alice’s life is the one thing soothing the sting of retirement.
Mary Alice and Ellie were a pair since the day Ellie moved in next door. That they both were single mothers—Mary Alice widowed, Ellie divorced—with sons the same age was a pleasant coincidence, but they were forever linked when they lost the boys, one right after the other. Years later, the two are working their way back to a comfortable friendship. But when Mary Alice’s sister arrives on her doorstep with a staggering piece of news, it jeopardizes the careful shell she’s built around her life. The whole of her friendship with Ellie is put at risk, the fabric of a place as steadfast as Billington is questioned, and the unflappable, knotty fixture that is Mary Alice Roth might have to change after all.
About the Author
Bobby Finger is a writer and co-host of the popular celebrity and entertainment podcast, Who? Weekly. A Texas native, he lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Old Place is his debut novel.
One of: Washington Post's 10 Noteworthy Books for September People's Best New Books Town & Country’s 45 Must-Read Books of Fall New York’s 25 Notable New Releases Nylon's September 2022 Must-Read Book Releases Lambda Literary’s Most Anticipated LGBTQIA+ Literature Picks for September Arlington Magazine’s 10 New Books to Read in September Kirkus Review's 150 Most Anticipated Fall Books LitHub's Most Anticipated Books of 2022
“Reading Finger’s playful portrait of the denizens of a small Southern town embracing and forgiving their many flaws feels like laughing with your best friend while sipping sweet tea on the back porch.” –Washington Post
“I found myself thinking of each character’s complexities and their imperfect dynamics as much as I do those of lifelong friends, and know they’ll stay with me a long time.” –Vanity Fair
“[A] heartwarming tale of friendship and what happens when we stop carrying secrets that weighed us down for years.” –Town & Country
“Poignant…Finger’s trademark wit is all over The Old Place; his characters are quippy and the prose is sharp.” –Texas Monthly
“[A] very funny book.” –People
“The first novel from Who? Weekly co-host Bobby Finger carries his dry but affectionate voice, which comes through just as strongly here as it does over AirPods.” –New York
“A cozy read full of humor that understands the complicated dynamics of small town life.” –Arlington Magazine
“A heartwarming story.” –San Antonio Report
“Debut author Bobby Finger wields crips, bright language in succinct, ample prose to reveal secrets deliberately hidden from the norms of social order….Poignant and memorable.” –New York Journal of Books
“The Old Place is…a yarn, it’s a love letter, and it puts an obituary center stage. Throw in a stoplight or two, and what more do you need?” –Washington Independent Review of Books
“Finger masterfully handles the complexities between friends, family, and life....[A] web of threading secrets and relationships that slowly comes to light, untwisting themselves in a way that demonstrates the ultimate value of forgiveness and the power of unconditional love. Readers wander through The Old Place waiting for some storm to rumble and pour forth, but Finger delivers a finish that is as gentle as dancing in a light drizzle, the sun about to peek through.” –Virginia Living
“Unforgettable…hits the rare and satisfying double note of harrowing and delightful…At its heart, The Old Place is about the way people relate to one another: family, neighbors, new and old friends. 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.” –Shelf Awareness
“Finger writes this town, and each of his characters, with deft tenderness. To read The Old Place is to be thoroughly immersed in a place you can’t help but love.” –LitHub
“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....A surprising page-turner—homey, funny, yet with dark corners of anger and grief.” –Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Billington, Texas, might be a small town, but readers of Bobby Finger’s exquisite debut novel…will quickly fall in love with this boondock burg and its make-you-laugh, break-your-heart characters…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 has created his own kind of Lake Wobegon: a vibrant literary locale that readers will be loathe to leave. Here’s hoping for more tantalizing, tempestuous tales.” –BookPage (starred review)
“Engaging…Finger has a firm handle on Billington’s complex and stifling social dynamics. Fans of small-town yarns will find much to like.” –Publishers Weekly
“Cozy, enthralling, and driven by complex, endearing women, The Old Place explore the mysterious act of realizing the worst in oneself and pushing forward anyway.” –Booklist
"I loved being inside this skillful novel—at the planning parties for church fundraisers, learning to drive with a can of beer in the cupholder, and in the heads of some wonderfully tangy old Texan ladies. Bobby Finger has built a rich world in The Old Place, and I will think of it every time I make toast." —Emma Straub, author of All Adults Here
"The Old Place is a wry but affectionate portrait of small-town life, its complicated rites and alliances, its various absurdities, and, most importantly, its people. Bobby Finger's debut is funny and genuinely moving—an utter charmer." —Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind
“With a wise and kind heart, Finger has written a novel as full of memorable characters, secrets, and epic family drama as any small town. Book clubs are going to love this vibrant debut.” –J. Ryan Stradal, author of The Lager Queen of Minnesota
"Bobby Finger's The Old Place is a wryly funny, bittersweet, emotionally generous novel. I missed the characters so much when it was over, and wished I could read another book about them all. It's a heck of a debut." —Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins and I Came All This Way to Meet You
“Bobby Finger’s The Old Place is an absolute delight. Set in a small Texas town where nothing changes—until everything does—it offers up an unforgettable cast of hilarious characters who prove that life is one helluva ride no matter how many curves there are in the road. Finger’s talent as a writer are on full display in this fantastic novel that is overflowing with humor and warmth.” –Isaac Fitzgerald, author of Dirtbag, Massachusetts
"Bobby Finger has written an enchanting, mesmerizing novel with all the warmth and community of Texas in The Old Place. This novel is a salad-spinner of family drama, long-held secrets, and heartbreak that hollowed me out and filled me back up with hope. I felt at home in these characters as I read: devastated for their losses and hopeful for their unification. It is a wonderful thing to find a novel that allows for both the complexity and the beauty of love—be it familial, romantic, or platonic. Finger writes it all beautifully, boldly, and deftly." —Kelsey McKinney, author of God Spare the Girls
“Bobby Finger’s debut novel is so charming, so warm-hearted, and so thoroughly luminous I never wanted it to end—just like I never wanted to leave the small-town Texas he so lovingly renders here. This book made me homesick for a place I’ve never been.” –Katie Heaney, author of The Year I Stopped Trying