Today: Jun 18, 2024

Professor’s second novel explores the ordinary life of the elderly

photo courtesy southernct.eduREBECCA BAINERGeneral Assignments Reporter
There are a number of gifted professors hiding behind the walls of Southern. One of them, Robin Troy, recently had her second book “Liberty Lanes” published, with positive reviews from her co-workers.
“Liberty Lanes” was written about a group of elders at a bowling alley in
Montana that Troy said she came upon while working as a reporter for a weekly paper; she was fascinated by the elders’ similarities to her, despite the age difference.
“I stepped into the bowling alley and was overwhelmed by the positive energy,” said Troy. “It was one of those moments that before you even think about the fact that you’re one-third of the age of these people, there’s really an incredible buzz in here that I want to learn more about.”
Troy said it was then she decided to write about these folks but realized she would have to create characters to add tension, rather than writing a non-fiction story about these good people leading good lives.
“I just tried to tell a story that would capture the spirit of these people,” said Troy, “that would have the tension and page turning.”
William Hochman, professor at Southern, said Troy did an impressive job creating characters, especially the main character, Nelson, who Hochman described as being “so real and so alive.”
“His interaction with the other main character, Hailey, is just so tender and so alive,” said Hochman, “not the dramatic movie type stuff, but the everyday beauty of life that actual movies can only hope to capture.”
Hochman said he believes one of the reasons Troy is such a successful writer and professor is because she isn’t arrogant, even though she is extremely smart, having a degree from Harvard.
“She’s a great professor because she writes to the people she lives with and works with,” said Hochman. “She graduated from one of the most prestigious prep schools. The way she carries herself you would almost think she’s more like me. She doesn’t have the ego of our best and brightest even though she is.”
In her novel, Troy said one of the themes she was trying to convey was that age is just a number.
“I have a strong opinion we don’t treat the elderly as we should, I think we marginalize them,” said Troy. “We had the same language, we had the same jokes, we went to a lot of the same restaurants.”
When looking to publish her book, Troy said she had trouble selling the novel because it wasn’t what one would traditionally consider a page-turner.
“Even to have so many agents say to me they couldn’t sell old people, well that’s exactly the problem, that’s exactly my point,” said Troy. “These voices need to be heard too.”
University of Nevada finally gave Troy the chance she needed and published the book. Timothy Parrish, a professor at Southern,  said he couldn’t be happier. He said he agrees with the theme that age is just a number in a certain sense.
“As you age,” said Parrish, “you still have all the desires and complexities you always had.”
Parrish said he thought “Liberty Lanes” was outstanding and he is privileged to call Robin a co-worker.
“It’s a study of loss, a celebration of community and a rumination on both mortality and love in all its forms,” said Parrish. “But most of all it’s an engrossing, expertly-crafted, compassionate, complex narrative about full-bodied people and a great read.”
Troy said she recently went back to Montana and spent time with her bowling alley friends and read from “Liberty Lanes” at an annual festival.
Troy said the friends who her characters were based on were happy and supportive of the book, especially one of the friends she dedicated the book to.
“She said no one wants to admit it in this life, but we all hope that our life adds up to something special,” said Troy of her friends words, “[She said] I’m glad that I lived long enough to see this book, because this is my something special.”
This is Troy’s second novel, she said her first was an outgrowth of her college thesis and published in 1998. Troy said she plans to work on more novels in the future, but her next project will most likely be a non-fiction piece about the past year and a half of her life in which she was diagnosed the Hodgkin’s lymphoma while three months pregnant with her second daughter.
“All is good,” said Troy, “but it was a dramatic year and I think I want to try and write about it.”

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