HANGING ON by Robert G. Beason


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Though first-novelist Beason's subordinate characters often dim to mere outline, his narrator, a wise-cracking septagenarian mired in a Connecticut retirement home, is appealing, now and then quite funny, as he ruminates on the plight of the warehoused elderly. Ben Carpenter, widower and former Illinois newsman, is a most reluctant resident of the Eagle Arms, a retirement home geared to the ambulatory elderly. He gets infrequent visits from daughter Norma, who lives nearby with workaholic husband Clyde and unhappy teenager Rodney. Ben's son Christopher--now known as ""C.C.,"" a successful Hollywood filmmaker--almost never touches home base. (""I get as many letters from him as from Ulysses S. Grant."") And Ben's best pal at the Arms is Dr. ""Fletch"" Pepper, a peppery dentist who yearned to be a plumber, while Ben's libido is reawakened by widow Emily, a youngster in her 60s. Ben chronicles the Arms' daily nothing: gatherings at the dining room gates where the residents ""form up as if we're going to dash in to a rock concert""; gossip among the halt, the lame--and occasionally the blind-drunk; seditious whispers about ""breaking out."" Ben also mulls over memories: his courtship of wife Dorothy, who harbored a guilty secret; newspaper cut-ups with a Scrooge-like boss; eight years of life without his adored Dorothy on the ""Old Farm"" he'd bought. There are a few outings: a successful mission with Fletch to make a purchase in a crowded store where the elderly are ignored--accomplished through the use of Ben's self-styled ""Old Fart Costume""; unsatisfying get-togethers with Norma and family; visits with Fletch to the hospital--to observe sad and tragic deaths. And finally, after helping to straighten out trouble-prone grandson Rodney, Ben plans to leave the Arms with Emily. . . but his happiness is short-lived. A likable chronicle, gruffly sentimental, but often on-target--Gray Panther-style--about discrimination against the elderly.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1984
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich