cover image Old Friends CL

Old Friends CL

Tracy Kidder. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $22.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-395-59303-5

Kidder, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Soul of a New Machine , spent a year observing the residents of Linda Manor, a 121-bed nursing home in Northampton, Mass. He offers respectful, moving portraits of elderly people confronting their decaying minds and bodies and imminent deaths as they go about their daily routines in a facility that for most of them will be, as Kidder notes, ``their last place on earth.'' Obese Winifred sobs because she has to be lifted mechanically from her bed; Earl, struggling with a half-dead heart, begs his wife to take him home; Eleanor directs her friends in a minstrel show; and Dan, who at 65 is one of the youngest residents, spends much of his day sucking oxygen from a tube and telephoning his senator's office to complain about his breakfast eggs. Among the addled residents are able-bodied Zita, who obsessively paces the hallways and tries to pick flowers depicted in the carpet's design. Kidder spotlights the friendship that blooms between Joe, an irascible 72-year-old stroke victim, and gentle Lou, 90 and almost blind, who grieves for his deceased wife, tells rambling stories about his past and worries about Joe. BOMC selection; author tour. (Sept.)