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Old Friends Paperback – September 6, 1994

4.5 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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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.
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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: 8.6 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,044,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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?
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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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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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Format: Paperback
This reads like eloquent fiction, but is in truth the story of Tracy's father. He doesn't say which character his father is, and he doesn't insert himself into the story. But what a wonderful, heart-bending story it is. At all times the sadness of the situation is eclipsed by the bravery and courage of people without hope; people who do the best they can, and it is more than enough. For any of us who will grow old, which is most of us, this is a must read.
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Format: Paperback
I had just signed up for long-term nursing care insurance, a very expensive commitment. I had a number of books I had been waiting to read, and I picked up OLD FRIENDS, thinking I would read a piece of nostalgia.

I was wrong. I picked up and read enthusiastically a book about nursing homes. Tracy Kidder's book makes clear what my long-term insurance is all about. No brochures could have described what he does here.

I became enmeshed in the lives of the residents. I watched them become "nudnicks." I overheard their conversations about life and death. I, too, looked forward to Lou's rambling memories. I worried about Joe's toe and if he'd lose it.

Both of my parents died suddenly, and as a result I had no experience with long-term care. I say "God bless" to all the workers in nursing homes and to Tracy Kidder who made this entire experience so vivid.

I now feel prepared myself if I should ever need this care.

Larry Rochelle, author of GULF GHOST, BLUE ICE and GHOSTLY EMBERS: VISIONS OF TOLEDO
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