A group of residents in a senior living facility faces a host of obstacles in Holden’s inventive collection of vignettes.
Norris Mae Ledbetter is a resident at the Wicklow Senior Living Center, also known as La Belle Residence. While her caregiver, Janice, tends to her, Norris Mae conducts her own inner dialogue, reliving the classic books she once memorized in her days as a librarian. Though Janice and Norris Mae are usually inches apart, they’re worlds away in their communication. That’s just one of many scenarios Holden explores in this creative assortment of short stories, each taking place at Wicklow. Various residents grapple with their afflictions: Claudia McCormick is haunted by her late husband’s barrage of insults, which play in an endless loop in her head; the 10-year “warranty” on Alvin DeGrand’s coronary bypass surgery has just expired; Jacob Walterman, a talented artist, has had a stroke and can only draw half his subject’s face. Holden dodges the clichés a lesser writer might have employed when conjuring the rather obvious ailments that could befall a senior. Even when he addresses stroke, Alzheimer’s or emotional abuse, he adds a twist to avoid banality. He also tackles lesser-known maladies such as agnosia (the inability to recognize familiar objects, usually faces) and aphasia (the loss of speech). Holden’s characters are aware of their failings and often suffer privately, as caregivers placate them in babyish tones, oblivious to the patients’ quiet screams. Fortunately, humor throughout adds levity and helps avoids the melancholic note these stories could easily have adopted. Some stories offer more of a punch than others, while a few end too early, leaving readers wanting more. Nevertheless, each boasts a sharp, tight ending on a fleeting glimpse into the rooms of Wicklow.
New finesse on an old theme, sure to grab readers’ attention.