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A Place Called Canterbury: Tales of the New Old Age in America Paperback – June 30, 2009


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A Place Called Canterbury: Tales of the New Old Age in America + Aging and The Life Course: An Introduction to Social Gerontology + Annual Editions: Aging 13/14
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (June 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143115308
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143115304
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #998,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Former New York Times reporter Clendinen tells how he persuaded his frail mother to sell her house and move to Canterbury Tower in Florida, a geriatric apartment building where many of her friends already lived. With caring staff, a swimming pool, spacious apartments and cocktail parties, the place seemed almost idyllic, and Mother (as the author refers to her) spent her first four years there in a whirl of social activities. But in 1998, the 83-year-old suffered a stroke and eventually moves into the nursing wing, finally succumbing in early 2007. Around this central narrative, Clendinen spins other stories and observations about the lifestyles of the new old age. He also describes how his mother's old friends ignored her completely when she was wheeled into the apartment tower for a cabaret after her stroke and his painful decision to withdraw her medications. Overall, Clendinen offers a mixed bag, with some stories coming across as poignant and others depressing, in need of some larger meaning—which could have been found, perhaps, in either Clendinen's own alluded-to midlife crisis or a more robust discussion of senior care. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The “new old age” is one of longer lives and greater independence until the prospects of dementia and infirmity set in. Clendinen, a former New York Times reporter, began chronicling this journey when, at age 55, he moved into Canterbury Towers, a housing development in Tampa, Florida, where the average occupant is 86 years old. Two years earlier, following the death of his father, his mother moved there and then suffered a debilitating stroke. The Canterbury was like a “good apartment hotel, a very adult camp, a tribal quarters, or some kind of club for the elderly, spunky, and vague.” Canterbury Towers included apartments for independent elderly and a nursing wing for those in failing health. It also included a delicious and lively array of social relationships and activities, from residents’ visits with their own parents—well into their 100s—to dining, dancing, romance, and arguments, in other words, the broad range of human existence. Clendinen tackles the great confused mess of elderly care from the personal perspective of his mother’s widowhood and aging, putting faces and emotions to a complex issue. --Vanessa Bush --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The book flowed very well.
Helen Bride
This is a beautifully written love story....a love story between mother and son.
Indy Chick
This book is a quick read, filled with humor and heartwarming moments.
Goldengate

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Goldengate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and in fact read it in the span of a little under a week - I couldn't put it down. Many books have been written about the transition from childhood to adolescence, but the transition from adulthood to what the author (or the publisher's marketing people) call "the new old age" has been pretty much ignored.

The author describes his mother's life at Canterbury Tower, a high-rise retirement community in Tampa, Florida overlooking Tampa Bay. Clendinen's writing style reminds me of John Berendt, author of "Midnight in the Garden Between Good and Evil." He portrays the characters of Canterbury (and in this book there are many characters!) with sensitivity and humor. Referring to themselves as "the inmates" because 99% of them will never leave Canterbury voluntarily, these members of what Tom Brokaw called "the greatest generation" deal with a variety of maladies associated with growing older interspersed with dancing, plays, field trips outside of Canterbury, and life's daily events.

Moving into a community like Canterbury, as so many elderly are doing on a daily basis, involves a lot of emotions - letting go of many possessions to fit into a 900 sq foot apartment - and also relinquishing a measure of independence. Clendinen portrays this struggle through a variety of characters whom we became close to in his time with his mother at Canterbury. They laugh, they cry, they live. They make comments like "When you get older, you learn not to buy anything that will last more than two weeks -- because *you* might not."

Clendinen also portrays southern culture and Tampa's old society well...
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Indy Chick on May 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully written love story....a love story between mother and son. Along the way we meet a group of interesting, eccentric and complex geriatric personalities. The author does a wonderful job of describing the emotions experienced while slowly losing his mother to several devastating strokes. If you want to laugh, cry, and be moved, read this story, then hug your parents and your children.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Lewis on May 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a marvelous book. Beautifully written and extremely poignant. Being a southerner myself, I didn't find the dialect annoying. It was spot on. As Linda Ellerbee said on the dust jacket, I want to give a copy of this book to all of my friends and family. I laughed, cried and hated for it to end.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Carol J. Horky on September 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
While the individual "tales" were well told and interesting, where was the insight into his situation and behavior. The author skims over the fact that, over and over, he broke his word to his sister. And defied his mother's wishes, too. Why? So he could fly down at his convenience (stated repeatedly in the text), at the very most once a month and often three to four times a year. Repeatedly he is weak, and gives in to what's best for him. As a doc told me after finishing my own Advance Directives: give copies to your children and make them promise -- no matter how hard it may be! -- to follow your wishes. Mr. Clendinen sadly did not have fortitude to do that. Not the first year, not the fifth year, not the ninth year. Heartbreaking. The honest part of the book is his quoting the geriatric specialist who, at the end, reminds him: his mother actually "died" maybe five year ago.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Meredith Anthony on May 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book! Full disclosure, my mother lives at Canterbury and is mentioned in the book, but I love it for its gentle insight and sweet profundity about the aging process. Boomers with older parents are beginning to realize that we must pay attention and look at aging with new eyes and this books helps us do that. Instead of looking away, this lovely set of profiles helps us face aging and look it right in the eye. I seriously recommend this fine piece of writing. And I recommend Canterbury to anyone who is ready to retire to a caring place with grace and dignity. Thank you, Dudley, for a warm tribute to the place and those who live there.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By readsalotofbooks on May 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As someone fast approaching retirement, and who recently buried two beloved parents (father didn't last long after mother passed away), I was excited to hear about this book on NPR. Although potentially dreary, the premise of Mr. Clendinen's book appealed to me. The book in fact started out nicely and was even touching. But it didn't take long until I found myself frustrated by its bloated yet predictable structure, and then I simply found myself bored and even resenting the author for wasting my time (especially on such a potentially rich topic).

A confession: try as I might, I couldn't finish it. I pressed forward as best as I could -- I'm interested in the topic -- but it's painfully ponderous. I must say I felt vindicated when my neighbor also confessed that she couldn't get through it either. And she felt vindicated when even her elderly mother confirmed our suspicions: it's boring.

Is it the long passages to nowhere? Or the tin ear for dialogue? The endless details that don't add to the big picture? Perhaps it's all of that.

All this leaves me wondering why the book got glowing reviews by well-known journalists and so much media attention. It turns out that the author was himself a journalist for many years and worked on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. I suspect it's not unusual for journalists to scratch each others backs, but it leaves me feeling somehow betrayed and not a little bit angry, particularly when the Times (inexplicably) gives him a top-drawer review.

I did read a wonderful book many years ago and it's still in print (and selling well on Amazon). It's called "NUMBER OUR DAYS" by BARBARA MYERHOFF. It's also about a community of aging Floridians, but by comparison, this book is an absolute treasure.
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