New book and play explore themes of love and loss on Vashon

The play reading, staged by Drama Dock and directed by Chaim Rosemarin, will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 22, at the Vashon High School theater.

Beloved local author and playwright Jeanie Davies Okimoto has a treat in store for her local fans — a new novel, “George Beasley’s Better Angel,” that is receiving raves from reviewers.

Better still, the characters in the book — two aging Vashon islanders who seek a fresh start by opening up an Airbnb in one of their basements — will also come to life in a staged reading of “Turn the Corner, George,” a play by Okimoto that prompted her to write the book.

The play reading, staged by Drama Dock and directed by Chaim Rosemarin, will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 22, in the Vashon High School theater.

Okimoto explained the evolution of her latest creation in a recent email, and how it wound up resulting in both a play and a novel.

“The story was originally a play, which Drama Dock was going to produce as a staged reading in April of 2020,” Okimoto said. “But the pandemic had other ideas and the play ended up buried in a drawer.”

Still inspired by the characters she had created, Okimoto penned her novel during the quiet of the pandemic, giving them new life. And now, Drama Dock has re-entered, resurrecting the play.

Both the play and the novel are centered on the friendship of George Beasley, a widower, and his friend Eddie, who is divorced. Both men, who are pushing the age of 80, find solace and laughter — as well as respite from deep grief and loss — in their slightly half-baked entrepreneurial adventure of becoming hoteliers.

Barry Grosskoff, MD, the author of “Forgive Your Parents, Heal Yourself” and “Hidden in Plain Sight,” praised Okimoto’s “easy, masterful storytelling” and called the book a “life-affirming balm in a world of hostile divisions, reminding us that loving relations are essential in each of our lives.”

Okimoto’s own self-effacing description of the novel — calling it “a book about old people on Vashon written by me, an old person on Vashon,” belies her storied career as a writer and the deep respect she has earned on Vashon and beyond.

She is the author of 24 books for adults, young adults and children. Among her many awards are Smithsonian Notable Book, American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults, International Reading Association Reader’s Choice Award and the Washington State Governor’s Award.

Her books and short stories have been translated into Japanese, Italian, Chinese, Danish, Korean, German, French, Turkish and Hebrew, and her plays have been produced in Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, New York and on Vashon.

In 2009, she also created Endicott and Hugh Books, to re-publish titles that had gone out of print and new work by select Northwest authors, with proceeds designated for non-profits. Along the way, she’s become a leading light of many, here on Vashon.

“Jeanie Davies Okimoto is Vashon Island’s new Betty MacDonald,” said local historian, Bruce Haulman.

The play, “Turn the Corner, George,” will have a staged reading by Drama Dock at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 22, at the Vashon High School Theatre. Tickets, $15, will benefit Drama Dock. Buy the novel, “George Beasley’s Better Angel,” at Vashon Bookshop or order it directly from an online seller. To peruse the virtual shelves of Endicott and Hugh Books,