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The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey
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The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  3,347 ratings  ·  722 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 i
Hardcover, 277 pages
Published November 11th 2010 by Riverhead Hardcover (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
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
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
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
Elliot Ratzman
“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
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
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
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/
Jim Leffert
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
Gae-Lynn Woods
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
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
Reno (Falling Letters)
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
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
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.
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.
I'm giving this book a 5-star rating because it really drew me in emotionally. And I thought the story was original.

Ptolemy Grey is a 91-year-old man who is in the early stages of dementia. He has almost nobody to care for him. His only companion is the memories he has of his childhood. His grandnewphew was stopping in to check on him, but he is killed in a drive-by shooting. At his funeral he meets Robyn, a 17-year-old girl who has recently come to live with Ptolemy's neice. Robyn ends up taki
Emma Gregory
To travel into the mind of ninety one year old Ptolemy Grey as he slowly sinks into dementia is an enlightening and uplifting journey. Ptolemy is originally from the south where as a young black child he is used to hardship but thanks to his mentor Coydog McCann he learns to see love in nature and finds joy in the small blessings that life throws his way. Fast forward eighty years Ptolemy knows he is dying and rushes to right the wrongs of his past before he loses his mind completely with the he ...more
an inspiring book about an elderly black man recountuing his earlier life while confronting today's world while dealing with dementia's unrelenting onslaught.
Jessica S.
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.
Cassandra Hawkins-Wilson
Today, I finished reading, "The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey" by Walter Mosley. This was my second book by Walter Mosley. Ptolemy Grey is an elderly man, dealing with dementia. At the beginning of the book, the chaos of Ptolemy is surreal. Mosleymakes you wonder exactly how things could be for you when you become old. The various examples of Ptolemy being taken advantage of is real. I have always wondered why and how people could take advantage of the elderly, especially the sick and elderly. Ironi ...more
So, I am simultaneously stuck feeling like this book is very imaginative and that it is a rip-off of Flowers with Algernon. If I had never read or heard of Flowers, I would have given this book 5 stars.

Mosley does a great job with narration and the change in Ptolemy's voice from the beginning (confused old man) to the middle (clear, intelligent) to the end (near death dreamlike state) is great. But then again, Daniel Keyes does the same thing and, oh yeah, he did it first. Whereas Charlie Gorde
Ptolemy Grey is a 91-year-old man, who has lost his wife, and much of his memories. He lives in a filthy, Los Angeles apartment. Roach infested, with a toilet that hasn't worked in a long while, he stays holed up here all alone. His pathetic, lonely life, is made even sadder by his dementia. He spends his days listening to classical music and the news. His great grand-nephew had been checking on him and running errands, but when Reggie is struck down in a drive by shooting and dies, everything c ...more
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
This is probably one of the most engaging books I've read this year. It arrived late on a rainy afternoon, and I only intended to glance at the first few pages (before finishing my pesky overdue library book), but I was so captivated I finished this one before going to bed that night.

The story is told from the point of view of Ptolemy Grey, who at ninety-one is healthy as a horse physically, but deep in the throws of dementia. He lives in squalor, barely surviving with the help of his great-gran
Brief Description: Ptolemy Grey is a 91-year-old man living in a dirty apartment in Los Angeles. He’s been steadily falling into dementia and forgetfulness, and his world falls to pieces when one of his few links to the present, his great-nephew Reggie, is murdered and unable to help him with his few meager errands. Distraught and confused, Ptolemy spends more time in the past with his long-dead friend Coydog than he does in the present. At Reggie’s wake, he forms an instant connection with a yo ...more
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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
More about Walter Mosley...
Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins #1) Black Betty (Easy Rawlins #4) Little Scarlet (Easy Rawlins #9) Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned The Man in My Basement

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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.” 71 likes
“The older you get the more you live in the past” 17 likes
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