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Old Friends Paperback – September 6, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (September 6, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039571088X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395710883
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #482,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

As in his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Soul of a New Machine ( LJ 8/81 ), House ( LJ 1/86), and the best-selling Among Schoolchildren ( LJ 1/90), Kidder reveals his extraordinary talent as a storyteller by taking the potentially unpalatable subject of life in a nursing home and making it into a highly readable, engrossing account. Through the eyes of roommates Lou and Joe, we experience daily life in the Linda Manor Nursing Home in Northampton, Massachusetts. Kidder displays an uncanny ability to reveal glimpses of the residents' former lives and their current hopes and fears without becoming sentimental or maudlin. This is a life that we all hope to avoid, both for ourselves and our loved ones; yet when we see it as it is portrayed in Old Friends it becomes less terrifying. This wonderfully different book is an essential purchase. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/93.
- January Adams, ODSI Research Lib., Raritan, N.J.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Tracy Kidder graduated from Harvard and studied at the University of Iowa. He has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Award, and many other literary prizes. The author of Mountains Beyond Mountains, My Detachment, Home Town, Old Friends, Among Schoolchildren, House, and The Soul of a New Machine, Kidder lives in Massachusetts and Maine.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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He speaks as well as he writes--makes non-fiction seem like a novel.
Geri Fridy
This is the story of Joe and Lou and their days in Linda Manor, and it is a story of growing old.
MFS
As a reader of the story, it taught me the definition of a true friend.
Anthony J. Archambault

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By MFS on May 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the story of Joe and Lou and their days in Linda Manor, and it is a story of growing old. Kidder juxtaposes the wrenching images of residents struggling with dementia and rapidly failing health with those of residents reaching out to one another in new friendships and coming to terms with their pasts. He deals frankly with the disadvantages of even the finest nursing home care: under-staffing, lack of empathy for residents, loneliness, and even lousy food. And he doesn't hesitate to acknowledge the imminence of death in such places. But, ultimately, this isn't a sad or depressing book. Joe and Lou accept that death is close, but they also learn to reconcile who they've been with who they've become. They find comfort and joy in their friendship, and their conversations provoke more smiles and quiet chuckles than tears. A topic that could have been rendered maudlin by another writer becomes an engaging treatment in Kidder's prose.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Seamus Sweeney on December 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
"For most of those long-lived, ailing people, Linda Manor represented all the permanence that life still had to offer. It was their home for the duration, their last place on earth." Thus writes Tracy Kidder in "Old Friends", an account of life in Linda Manor, a Massachussets old folk's home. It would be a useful exercise to watch a day's television and see how many elderly people are featured. The old are increasingly invisible in our society.
Once respect for one's elders was a maxim in most cultures. Now all has changed in the consumer capitalist west; with a prevalent worship of a narrowly-defined sense of "youth" - physically slim, impulsive, impatient; and the traditional virtues of the elderly - experience, deliberation, rumination - are derided in that accurate barometer of the spirit of the times, advertising. In medical training, there is an unspoken but clear bias against the elderly; students are advised to ensure that the stereotypically scatty little old lady sticks to matters of strict clinical relevance.
The notion that we have anything to learn from the elderly has disappeared from most contemporary culture. The elderly are a nuisance, a problem to be medicated and managed and forgotten. Kidder's book - unsentimental and heartbreaking, a clear-eyed portrait full of dignity and beauty and humour - is a counterblast to the cult of youth and the pathologising of old age. Increasingly we, as young people, live lives surrounded by people of our own age only - the decline of large families mean that we are less likely to have infant siblings or indeed much older siblings, while the large extended family gathering is increasingly dwindling.
The blurb on the back of "Old Friends" begins:"What's wrong with Tracy Kidder?
Read more ›
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
After spending a year at Linda Manor, a nursing home in Massachusetts, Pulitzer Prize winning author Tracy Kidder offers no generalized discourse on the problems of aging in America, but rather a touching story of friendship, reconciliation, and peace.

Joe Torchio is 72-years-old, a former probation officer, and has suffered a stroke. Bitterly railing against the losses that have beset him in life, the death of a son, the birth of a retarded daughter, Joe has forsaken his Catholic faith.

At 92 years of age, Lou Freed is blind yet resolutely curious about everything. He is a Jew who is not terribly religious but is sometimes given to pondering theological questions.

The pairing of this unlikely duo as roommates might bode bickering and discontent. Not so in Kidder's hands - we find a gradually blooming friendship which enables both men to live in their new environment and face limited futures with equanimity, courage, and grace.

This is not just Lou and Joe's story, it may be your story or mine. Of course, it is a tale of old age and approaching death. It is also a toast to life.

- Gail Cooke
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. Carroll VINE VOICE on January 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
Kidder excels at writing about people we take for granted and looking at them with sensitivity and compassion. In this book he takes the reader to Linda Manor, a Massachusetts nursing home, and shows the day to day life of the residents. The stereotypes associated with the elderly are quietly shattered by the men and women introduced in Kidder's book. Lives are relived, pain is dealt with and each day is a challenge to be met. Kidder does not hide his admiration for some of these people and his affection is contagious. You learn to care for these people and that is what makes this book so successful.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
In Tracy Kidder's wonderful book, the answer to this question is a resounding "yes." Kidder's book is a cinema verite-style documentary into the daily lives of several residents of Linda Manor nursing home, with a special focus on two men, Joe and Lou, who are assigned to the same room. Strangers at the beginning of the book, these two very different men become "old" friends over the course of a year.
Kidder's book captures vividly the experience of being alive and alert, full of memories and emotions, in circumstances that greatly restrict freedom of movement and freedom of choice. It challenges the reader to face the unwelcome realities of aging, but in a way that allows us to recognize the humanity and dignity of people regardless of their age.
I am not reassured by Kidder's reporting that half of us will spend at least some of our last time on earth in a nursing home. But after reading this book, I feel that I have faced some fears that I've been avoiding. I can also see, when I look at others, the complete arc of their lives, from birth to death, and that perspective does much to make me thankful for whatever the present moment happens to hold for each of us.
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