A Fine and Private Place Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of A Fine and Private Place

A man who can communicate with ghosts hides out in a cemetery for 19 years, and helps one of the departed solve the mystery of his own death. Nineteen years ago Jonathan Rebeck lost his pharmacy due to bankruptcy, got massively drunk as a result and woke up in a cemetery. He has lived there ever since, hiding from the world. A talking raven brings him stolen sandwiches and scraps, plus the occasional paperback to pass the time.
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He's also discovered that he can see and talk to the ghosts of the people that are buried there. Usually they start off strong, if a bit confused, until they slowly fade away as they forget how to be alive. But two of the recently deceased are having problems. Michael Morgan is determined to hang onto his existence, convinced that he was poisoned by his wife. Laura Durand, meanwhile is a bit relieved to be dead but can't seem to find her eternal rest. Slowly a connection forms between the two, and they fall in love.

Rebeck starts a quiet romance of his own after he meets a widow who is visiting her deceased husband's grave. She keeps returning, and it becomes clear that she is doing so to see Rebeck. His quiet existence as an outcast is disturbed by this unusual contact with a living woman. He pretends to be a visitor like herself, but knows the ruse can't last.

Meanwhile Morgan's wife is on trial for the poisoning, but ultimately found not guilty when it is discovered that Morgan's death was in fact a suicide. To his and Laura's dismay, this means that his body will be moved to unhallowed ground in a difference cemetery, because he is Catholic. Since his spirit is tied to his corpse, this will separate the lovers.

The only person who can help them is Rebeck, and Laura begs him to dig her own body up and reinter it beside Morgan's at his new resting place, so they can remain together. He hesitates, he hasn't left the cemetery in nearly two decades and is terrified of the outside world and all it entails. But he knows there is no one else that can help them, so he screws up his courage and enlists both the widow and the cemetery guard to help him. They succeed in their mission, but as soon as they pass the cemetery gates Rebeck loses his ability to see the ghosts. He concludes that it's because he finally has a life ahead of him again, a future with the widow he loves.
Best part of story, including ending: Both the love stories are about finding love when you think you no longer can, and are very sweet and a bit melancholy because of that.

Best scene in story: The introduction of the talking raven right near the beginning is very funny, the bird is sarcastic and fed up with everything, complaining about its errands even while it admits it can't help wanting to do them.

Opinion about the main character: He's a very sympathetic character, you feel bad for how he's ended up even while you can't help but wish he had the courage to face life sooner.

The review of this Book prepared by Maria Nunez a Level 11 Prairie Warbler scholar

Chapter Analysis of A Fine and Private Place

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 20%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 50%Descript. of society, phenomena (tech), places 30% Tone of book    -   sensitive (sigh....) FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION?    -   fantasy story on current Earth Magical Beings/Mental/Magical/Powers    -   Yes magical powers:    -   they see dead people! (fantasy) Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Profession/status:    -   unemployed Age:    -   40's-50's If magical mental powers:    -   can talk to animals


Takes place on Earth?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   moderately detailed references to deaths How much dialogue?    -   significantly more descript than dialog

Books with storylines, themes & endings like A Fine and Private Place

Peter S. Beagle Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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