Editorial Note – I was given a copy of this book from the author in return for a review.
The Reluctant Fortune-Teller by Keziah Frost is a charming book about how it’s never too late to ‘come of age.’ This one is a heartwarming story that will leave you with a smile on your face when you finish the last page.
The story is about Norbert Zelenka at seventy-three whose always lived life on the sidelines. He’s broke and alone except for the company of a Chihuahua. But when “Carlotta’s Club”—three strong-willed seniors with plenty of time on their hands—decide to make Norbert their latest project, he reluctantly agrees to their scheme: establishing himself as the town’s fortune-teller. Soon his life begins changing in unexpected ways. For more about the synopsis, check out my preview.
Colorful cast of characters
Norbert is a likable character and you’ll root for him the entire way. He’s a kindhearted man that never quite felt like he fit in; I think that’s something many people can relate to no matter their age. In Norbert’s case, living life in the background did give him a chance to observe human nature, which comes in handy when he starts to read cards. While reluctant at first, the persuasive Carlotta convinces him it would be a great way to earn some extra money.
Oh, Carlotta – she’s something else! She’s a born leader and her two best friends always follow whatever her lead is: whether it’s card reading, a wine club or trying to become fluent in French. Originally, she brought the idea to Norbert to provide a ‘project’ for the trio of women. But when Norbert starts to experience big success, Carlotta becomes worried her ‘project’ is growing without her.
Still, though, Carlotta is complicated. And when we learn more about her past, we began to understand why she acts a certain way. We also get to know another Summer, Carlotta’s granddaughter, who has her own secrets, too.
I was fascinated by learning more about card reading! That is a world I know nothing about it. But it’s interesting that the approach Norbert took was a bit therapist and a bit of his observations with a whole lot of listening. It wasn’t so much predicting exactly what would happen to someone but opening their eyes to the answers they already knew but wouldn’t admit to themselves. The author does a neat touch of describing all the different cards; where a specific card relates to what takes place in that chapter. And at the end of the book, she wrote out Norbert’s guide to fortune-telling.
There are many reports that talk about how the effects of loneliness on health. For instance, this New York Times article does a deep dive into the topic. So, when Norbert talks about his somewhat isolated life up until this point, it’s impactful. The success of his new found hobby as the fortune teller is significant. For instance:
If only he could have known, during the dark hours of his earlier life, that one day, all his loneliness and silent observations would count for something.
It’s not just Norbert that is alone in the story. While Norbert viewed life on the sidelines, Summer tries to paint an image of a happy, carefree twenty-something but in reality, she’s withdrawn from the world and wrestling with grief and guilt. When Norbert reads her cards, it takes the story in an unexpected and interesting turn.
Bottom line: if you’re looking for a witty, heartfelt story about how it’s never too late to figure out who you really are, you’ll really enjoy this one.
Book Club Questions
While I include book club questions with every book I review, the author and publisher featured it in this book! So, just go to the end of the story and you’ll find all the questions listed. There’s also an author Q&A, too.