Monday, May 23, 2016


Bing Crosby's Last Song is not a biography of the last song crooner Bing Crosby ever recorded. Bing is actually only mentioned two or three times in the book. The 1998 novel is a very poignant story of Daly Racklin, a middle aged man of Irish descent living in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh in 1968. This story begins with a difficult conversation between Daly and his doctor... his doctor has just given him bad news about his heart condition. Daly's time is short and as is often the case when a person receives news such as this, he begins some serious self-examination and soul searching. This examination takes him on a path through not only his own life but the lives of his friends and family in his old crumbling Irish neighborhood.

Through Daly's interactions with other characters in the story... his family, friends and people in the neighborhood, the reader learns what kind of man Daly really is.. what 'stuff' he is made of. Daly is, like his father before him, an attorney; and also like his father, he is the 'strong one', the responsible one... the one everyone in the neighborhood goes to for help because he always takes care of his own. He takes care of everyone else but it soon becomes clear through the course of the story, that there doesn't seem to be anyone for DALY to turn to. And honestly, as the story went on, it seemed that perhaps Daly actually did not know HOW to allow people to help him. He didn't seem to be able to allow people to get close to him... perhaps that was his flaw and his 'cross to bear'. He was lonely... and now dying... and still couldn't figure out how to make that human connection.

This story of Daly Racklin WAS a sad one. He examined what sort of person he had been in his lifetime by holding his own life up next to his father's a kind of yardstick. For all the loneliness he felt, I do believe that ultimately he was at peace with himself and everything he had tried to do for others in his life.

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and I learned a lot about the different sections of the city - namely Oakland. I was not even around in 1968, so it held a particular fascination for me. I got a very different mental picture of the city as it was in 1968 and this made me consider what the Urban Renewal, mandated by the federal government after World War II, actually meant to the people in many of these ethnic neighborhoods. Some of the Irish dialect is hard to follow, but the book really draws you into life in a close knit Irish neighborhood. I highly recommend this sentimental novel...


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