Sunday, November 08, 2015
A new novel by Chico writer Emily Gallo continues the story of one Jedidiah Gibbons, “a tall, thin, muscular African-American. He was pushing fifty but easily looked fifteen years younger.… He was one of those people who turned heads but not because of his physical attractiveness, although he was quite handsome. It was his air of mystery and aloofness that drew them in.”
Jed is in San Francisco, looking for another new start: “This time he was running from the law.” Part of his history is told in “Venice Beach,” published earlier this year, but he was one of many characters. In “The Columbarium” ($12.95 in paperback from CreateSpace; also for Amazon Kindle) the focus is on Jed, a survivor of the Jonestown massacre in Guyana.
A note indicates that “the Columbarium is a real place, a designated landmark at One Lorraine Court in San Francisco…. It was three stories high and built as a rotunda,” with the walls containing thousands of niches holding urns of every variety, some “ornately decorated with items that were obviously meaningful to those who knew the dead person as well as to the ones whose ashes were inside.”
At Glide Memorial Church, an attractive social worker named Monica directs Jed to a job at the columbarium, which had fallen into disrepair. Owned by the Neptune Society, the facility needed a gardener, a craftsman, an artist, someone who cared. That was Jed.
And he is surrounded in the community by outcasts and the forgotten. There is Rose, an eighty-year-old Chinese woman enamored of the baseball Giants; Sam, whose dear wife Sadie is dying and who befriends Jed and teaches him Yiddish; Goldie, sixty-five and very ill, part of a marijuana selling operation, who also loves Broadway musicals. And many more.