The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman was published in 1966, but it’s as relevant today as it was back then. I couldn’t stop reading this series because it’s so well written.
Gilman is an author who sticks to the details. Gilman is meticulous in placing people and setting elements in the story to be used it later. For that alone, she’s worth reading for writers. But even if you’re not a writer, this book is about a fascinating protagonist who demonstrates that being older doesn’t mean you stop living.
Mrs. Pollifax believes she’s outlived her usefulness. Her children are grown and have moved away. Her husband is dead. She loathes volunteer work. She’s got white hair and a “cushiony” figure. Inspired by an article about an actress, she decides she’s not too old to do what she’s always wanted to do: be a spy.
She travels to Washington DC and presents herself to the CIA. The person who speaks to her couldn’t have been less interested. Yet an unexpected someone higher up on the command chain spots her in the waiting room and mistakenly thinks she’s perfect. The job is posing as a tourist while being a courier to a bookstore in Mexico City. Mrs. Pollifax is all in.
She doesn’t follow orders exactly, as she can’t resist going to the bookstore before she’s signaled. It proves to be a fortuitous, because when she returns, the owner has been ousted and the bad guy has replaced him. He realizes she is the courier and poisons her tea. She wakes up as a prisoner.
Then Mrs. Pollifax shows her mettle. She and the other prisoner are flown somewhere—ultimately Albania–and imprisoned and facing possible torture. It’s her personality that is her weapon. Her curiosity about other people, her intelligence, and her spirits all help her escape from prison.
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Till next time,