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If I Live to Be 100: Lessons from the Centenarians Paperback – March 23, 2004
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At the turn of the new millennium, Ellis created and produced "One Hundred Years of Stories" for NPR, which was one-on-one interviews with men and women across the United States who had celebrated their 100th birthday. Her initial intention was to quiz them about their pasts to discern a bit of living American history. But that didn't work out well, so she switched her purpose. Instead of focusing on the past, she decided to seek the answer to this question: What makes life worth living for so long? As near as I can tell, she failed at both. The book is too much about her and not enough about the centenarians.
That said, the interviews are fascinating to read and some are quite profound and moving. Unfortunately, far too much of the text is devoted to the author's logistics in setting up and conducting the interviews with people who are often deaf and sometimes suffering from dementia. I wish she had left out how tired she was after an interview, the condition of the beds in her various hotel rooms, and how she was frustrated with herself for not asking the right questions.
The result: The book loses its focus. And that's a shame because there is real wisdom and wit and delight in these pages even if we never really find out what makes life worth living for so long.