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The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  4,297 Ratings  ·  862 Reviews
A masterful, moving novel about age, memory, and family from one of the true literary icons of our time.

Ptolemy Grey is ninety-one years old and has been all but forgotten-by his family, his friends, even himself-as he sinks into a lonely dementia. His grand-nephew, Ptolemy's only connection to the outside world, was recently killed in a drive-by shooting, and Ptolemy is t
Hardcover, 277 pages
Published November 11th 2010 by Riverhead Books (first published November 11th 2009)
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spoko I'll look into them, for sure. Although I think I'm going to go ahead and try Easy Rawlins as well. I'm with you—that's not usually my thing. But I…moreI'll look into them, for sure. Although I think I'm going to go ahead and try Easy Rawlins as well. I'm with you—that's not usually my thing. But I have a lot of trust in him as an author, so I think I'm willing to give them a shot.(less)

Community Reviews

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"PHENOMENAL"! This is my first Walter Mosley book. Wow, I am left speechless with teared filled eyes because I too love Ptolemy. I can say I love him just as much as Robin, if not more. It's been a long time since I've been able to connect with multiple characters in a story. I felt, while listening, like I knew these people personally and I was an invisible person with them on the bus, visiting Neicy, or visiting the Jewish Lawyer. Also, that I was there drinking tea with the antiques dealer an ...more
Jan 16, 2012 Mary rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2012
How many of us wonder how long we’ll live and if we’ll ever get so old we lose the ability to care for ourselves? Perhaps we’ve watched a loved one slowly disappear into the grip of dementia, or watched someone’s life support be shut off. Or simply woken up one day and become shocked at the small and crumbling creature a parent or grandparent has turned into.

Ptolemy Grey is 91 years old and in the moderate stages of dementia. This strange book is told from his perspective as disgruntled family m
Jan 01, 2011 Autumn rated it it was amazing
The 'Last Days of Ptolemy Grey' is without a doubt one of the best books I have read in a very long time.I picked it up on a whim, and was captivated from the beginning, quickly getting caught up in the life and misty mind of Ptolemy. From the chaos, fear, and betrayal of the opening pages to the poignant ending, Mosely had my attention trough deft use of language, detail, and especially dialogue.

Ptolemy Grey is a man nearing the end of his life. His mind is a misty mixture of old stories from
Jun 10, 2011 Jacquelin rated it really liked it
In The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, Walter Mosley takes us into the feeble mind of a 91-year-old black man. Ptolemy lives alone, almost crowded out of his apartment by a lifetime’s worth of stuff, and largely forgotten by his family except for his great-grandnephew. When the young man is killed in a drive-by shooting, Ptolemy is left in the care of the stunning, yet underage Robyn, a family friend.

Robyn cleans Ptolemy’s apartment and helps him with his errands, but more importantly, sees the man i
Oct 24, 2016 Rincey rated it liked it
Shelves: poc-author, 2016
3.5 stars
Richard Vialet
Mosley's consistently eloquent and soulful writing is perfect for this tale told from the point of view of a 91-year old man who is pulled from the depths of dementia in his final days, is inspired to recapture life and love, and ultimately come to grips with painful memories from his past. It was refreshing and eye-opening to follow a protagonist that is almost never featured in books, the extreme elderly. Many of us forget that a man over 90 years old can have the same desires, the same worrie ...more
Dec 15, 2010 Laurie rated it it was amazing
On the surface, this novel is a touching tale of a 91 year old man with dementia, who through a grace of a 17 year old girl who decides to take care of him and a Faustian deal with a doctor who has an experimental dementia drug, gets a few weeks of a restored mind. Not much time, but time enough to set a lot of things right before he dies- a death accelerated by the drug. But I think it runs deeper.

The story is narrated through the eyes of Ptolemy Usher Grey. He lives in a run down rooming hous
Elliot Ratzman
Nov 06, 2012 Elliot Ratzman rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
“Old man like me don’t have no first blue sky or thunderstorm or kiss. Old man like me don’t laugh at the taste of a strawberry or smell his own stink and smile…My world is made outta ash and memories, broken bones and pain.” I love this strange novel; I was totally transported to another world—one of senility and poverty. Old Ptolemy Grey lives in his fading memories, in a run-down unkempt home in the ghetto, and in relationship with his few remaining family members. Through tragedy and a dash ...more
Jim Leffert
Aug 06, 2011 Jim Leffert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Walter Mosley returns to peak form in this imaginative novel about Ptolemy Gray, a 91-year old African American man in Los Angeles who is increasingly slipping into dementia. Ptolemy gains one brief burst of lucidity, thanks to a bargain he makes with a Mephistophelian medical doctor and experimental researcher. As the sands of time run down, he finds a new relationship and a friendship, sets his affairs in order, and probes the drive by shooting of his great-great grandnephew, determined to ave ...more
Mar 01, 2011 Roy rated it it was amazing
Simplicity is a powerful weapon, and often times less truly is more. The title of this book serves as partial synopsis. To flesh it out I will add that Ptolemy Grey is nearly 92 years of age and suffering from dementia that leaves him in a helpless state. He's at the sad stage where he won't even turn off his television or radio which simultaneously play 24/7 because he surely won't remember how to turn them back on. When the grandnephew who visits periodically to check on him is killed and a le ...more
Apr 06, 2011 Emma rated it it was amazing
God I love that book!
When I saw that the author had written so many books and that he was so renowned, I was ashamed I had not even heard his name ever! Now that I read this book, I want to read many more by this author.

If you are looking for a page turner, you have it. But a page turner filled with feeling, sensitivity, old age and teenage years, and at the same time not a cheap tear-jerker.

His dealing with the theme of memory is superb, you follow the old man as he goes in and out his many mem
Nov 09, 2011 Mattie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it
What a wonderful read! The story tugged at my heart throughtout. Ptolemy Usher Grey's last days were filled with confusion, frustration, fear, love, hate, good, evil, revenge and in the end peace. This was a heart breaking story that warmed my heart at the same time.
switterbug (Betsey)
Ptolemy Grey is a ninety-one-year-old man suffering from progressive dementia, but insists on living independently in his squalid apartment. His home is a veritable biology experiment, as the mold and filth has not been cleaned in months, maybe years. Ptolemy urinates in a can because the bathroom is uninhabitable; he uses the diner down the street for the sit-down chore. He remembers pieces of his youth, enough to know there is a treasure and a secret in his past.

At home, the TV news blares 24/
Eugenia O'Neal
Ever read a book that you don't want to end, but you can't stop reading it? Well, that was The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey for me. Mosley's writing is as wonderful as ever and there were some laugh-out-loud moments but this is a deeply moving book about Ptolemy Grey, an old man who had not fought against the dying of the light until the beautiful and very young Robyn comes into his life.

Ptolemy is 92 and has become a recluse surrounded by the usual clutter of a hoarder which has made his apartment
Not sure why I picked up this read, except that I caught an interview of Walter Mosley talking about the loss of his father and he detailed his experience of taking care of him prior to his death, how "alone" in the world he now feels and how this particular book was inspired. Mosley is a great storyteller, but I usually stay away from his stuff as it's often very morbit/disturbing.

Ptolemy Grey is in his nineties and living in deplorable conditions in an apartment in Los Angeles, unable to comp
Feb 01, 2011 Ed rated it really liked it
Ptolemy Usher Grey, 91, has a few thorny issues to straighten out before he shuffles off this mortal coil, including making a deal with "the Devil." Very different title in the Mosley canon is a masterful handling of the past running up against the present. Another winner for me is turning this year into one of the richest as far as my reading time goes.
Trish Williamson
This is my new favorite book. It is so sweet it made my eyes 'leak' as my niece would say. Half way through I could not stop reading. The main character is such a person of worth and those he recognized as valuable were as wonderful as him. It is a book I will continue to think about and recommend. Thank you Geri for the recommendation.
Jan 25, 2017 Kiwi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery

“The older you get the more you live in the past,” Coy intoned like a minister introducing his sermon. “Old man like me don’t have no first blue sky or thunderstorm or kiss. Old man like me don’t laugh at the taste of a strawberry or smell his own stink and smile. You right there in the beginnin’ when everything was new and true. My world is made outta ash and memories, broken bones and pain. “Old man see the same things and walk the same roads he know so well that he don’t even have to open his
Jenna (Falling Letters)
Jun 30, 2012 Jenna (Falling Letters) rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
Amended version of the original posted 27 May 2011 on Falling Letters.


The story focuses on the very elderly Ptolemy Grey and his efforts to regain his failing memory in the last days of his life (hence the title...I really liked the title, it's the sort of thing I fall for). This leads to many snapshots of memories throughout the novel. These memories are what I liked most about this story. I love the idea of an old Ptolemy reflecting on his life and what events and people were important to
Jan 31, 2011 Hattie rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Hattie by: Literary People of Color book group/ Goodreads
If I had the chance to ask Walter Mosley a question, I would ask this one. As a younger author would you have written about Ptolemy Grey? Ptolemy Grey is a ninety-one year old man who has allowed life to strengthen him and not make him weaker. Mr. Grey has a big heart. He loves his family, and he loves his friends. Ptolemy Grey is true blue. I enjoyed learning about his life and walking with him at a slower pace through his last days. I never knew what would pop out of his mouth. For example, he ...more
Jessica S.
Nov 05, 2010 Jessica S. rated it it was ok
The two-star rating was generous. I'm bitter because I had such high hopes for this book, and the further along it progressed, the more disappointed I became.

The first three discs (of seven) really held my attention. I was so touched by the elderly man who suffered from dementia and was trying to survive on his own, the family who tries to help him but end up taking advantage of his social security checks, the sweet young girl who befriends him and turns his life around... Then it became corny.
Dec 31, 2010 Tony rated it liked it
Mosley, Walter. THE LAST DAYS OF PTOLEMY GREY. (2010). ***. Mosley adds another mythical character to his list with this latest novel. Ptolemy is a ninety-one year old black man living alone in a one-bedroom flat in a poor section of L.A. He is on the borderline of dementia. He has an extended family, but can’t keep them all straight. He depends on one of his younger relatives to come visit him and help him with his shopping and banking needs. When that young man is killed in a drive-by, Ptolemy ...more
Gae-Lynn Woods
May 07, 2012 Gae-Lynn Woods rated it it was amazing
This is the first book I've read (or more correctly 'listened to') by Walter Mosley, and I really enjoyed it. He does a brilliant job of putting a face on the mask of dementia, showing us the loneliness, fear and confusion that sufferers experience, and the joy that comes from honest human interaction.

Although an extremely difficult topic, this is an engaging story that draws the reader in to focus on the characters and the plot. Mr. Mosley does a wonderful job of capturing the rhythms of speech
Dec 30, 2010 Ernestine rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was fantasy but it was so good. It is about the last days of a man's life and he is obviously in the end stage of dementia when he is given a reprieve of a clear mind for a few weeks (fantasy #1) and a mature 17-year old girl with cute legs to take care of him in his last days (fantasy #2). Mosley does a good job with giving us this man's life story and the philosophy of two old Black men.
Dec 06, 2011 Lawrence rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I've ever read that I didn't want to end. If you get a chance to listen to it, I would highly recommend it. I could listen to this book over and over and I don't say that about every book. I highly recommend it to anyone that loves to read.
Dec 13, 2010 Jim rated it really liked it
an inspiring book about an elderly black man recountuing his earlier life while confronting today's world while dealing with dementia's unrelenting onslaught.
Apr 17, 2011 Bea rated it really liked it
Wonderful story of old age and dying; of memories and regrets; of love and loving. Very well written.
Sep 20, 2011 thewanderingjew rated it it was amazing
It is a such a poignant tale that I did not want it to end. I wanted to know such a man as Ptolemy Grey. He was a genuine gentleman, one who understood what was important in life and what wasn’t, that there are treasures in life that are more valuable than money, perhaps more valuable than life itself, who understood kindness and cruelty. This touching relationship between an old man and the young girl whose kindness and true concern for him reawakens his heart and mind, will stay with you. Her ...more
Jackie Deleon
Jan 21, 2015 Jackie Deleon rated it really liked it
A very poignant and heartbreaking, but ultimately satisfying read. The writing flows and ebbs with the currents of Ptolemy's mind, sometimes rushing back to the past in a torrent, sometimes the memory just trickling in at the edges of the present. There are no chapters; scenes flow in and out with the seamlessness Ptolemy's learned to accept in his dementia. LA is also vividly drawn, not the sunshiny richness we associate with red carpets and beaches, but the fluorescent laundromat and dollar st ...more
Nov 02, 2010 Shannon rated it really liked it
I can guarantee you one thing: The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey will make you think. It may also confuse you, frustrate you, sadden and encourage you, but it will definitely make you think. It might make you think about the plight of the elderly in a society where families are dispersed across our country. It might make you wonder whether you'd choose between a longer life rife with confusion or a shorter one where you retain totally clarity of mind. Or you could spend time pondering what our oblig ...more
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Destined to be an American classic? 11 62 Aug 01, 2015 04:29PM  
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Walter Mosley (b. 1952) is the author of the bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins, as well as numerous other works, from literary fiction and science fiction to a young adult novel and political monographs. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Magazine and the Nation, among other publications. Mosley is the winner of numero ...more
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“That's how powerful you are, girl...You pretty, but pretty alone is not what people see. You the kinda pretty, the kinda beauty, that's like a mirror. Men and women see themselves in you, only now they so beautiful that they can't bear to see you go.” 80 likes
“The older you get the more you live in the past” 25 likes
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