Sometimes touching, sometimes humorous, sometimes windy meditation on how today’s elderly live.
In 1994, three years after her husband’s death, the ailing mother of former New York Times staffer Clendinen took up residence in a Tampa Bay “life care” facility called Canterbury Tower. Not long thereafter, in an effort to get a feel for how she was going to live out her final years, Clendinen moved into the Florida apartment building and, much to his surprise, found himself enjoying the residents, the camaraderie and the sense of community. He “set out to be their diarist and chronicler,” and his mother, who died in 2007, undoubtedly would have been delighted by the result. Similar in concept though not nearly as goofy as Rodney Rothman’s successful Early Bird: A Memoir of Premature Retirement (2005), Clendinen’s portrait of his mother and her fellows is guileless and warmhearted. He has no axe to grind; he just wants to tell a story. But his appealing book suffers from bloat, the same problem that afflicted his debut (Out For Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America, 1999). It grows tiresome to read about the minutia of each Canterbury day, especially the endless discussions about food. That may be Clendinen’s point: Minutia is all these frail, elderly folks remain able to cope with. But does anyone else want to read about it?
Will attract a niche audience, but few beyond that.