Cora Sledge is horrified when her children, who doubt her ability to take care of herself, plot to remove her from her home. So what if her house is a shambles? Who cares when she last changed her clothes? If an 82-year-old widow wants to live on junk food, pills, and cigarettes, hasn’t she earned the right? When her kids force her into The Palisades, an assisted living facility, Cora takes to her bed, planning to die as soon as possible. But life isn’t finished with her yet; in fact, far from it.
Deciding that truth is the best revenge, Cora begins to write a tell-all journal that reveals once and for all the secret she has guarded since she was a young woman. In entries that are at once profane, profound, and gossipy, she chronicles her childhood in rural Missouri, her shotgun wedding, and the terrible event that changed the course of her life. Intermingled with her reminiscences is an account of the day-to-day dramas at The Palisades—her budding romance with a suave new resident, feuds with her tablemates, her rollicking camaraderie with the man who oversees her health care, and the sinister cloud of suspicion that descends as a series of petty crimes sets everyone on edge. The story builds to a powerful climax as Cora’s revelations about her past mesh with the slow unraveling of intrigue in the present.
Cora is by turns outrageous, irreverent, and wildly funny. Despite a life with more than its share of disappointment and struggle, she refuses to go gently into her twilight years, remaining intensely curious, disinclined to play it safe, and willing to start over. Breaking Out of Bedlam captures the loneliness and secrets that lurk within families, the hardscrabble reality facing women with limited resources, and the resilience of a woman who survives, despite all the odds, through an unlikely combination of passion, humor, and faith.