Like Tove Jansson's somber Sun City (1976), these far sunnier but no less searching Florida-retirement-community portraits settle in on the curious, fevered vitality of old people. Sunset Gardens, muses one middle-aged son, burdened with the guilt which blurs children's visits, is ""merely a dumping ground for aged Jewish parents of a certain working class strata. . . the Jews who never really made it big."" Superficially, the place is busy, a humming society paced by the ""yentas,"" the gossipers and tile-clickers. Yet there is a shared knowledge which surfaces occasionally in jokes about the ""Anthem of Death"" when the ambulance whines by, in the heart-stopping anxieties of the night, and in fanciful, last-ditch swerves: Greenberg ""sold insurance, came home, watched television, slept on the couch. That was his whole life. Now he's a bird watcher. Everyday he gets up at five to watch the birds,"" observes a presiding yenta. But Adler's old people, humiliated by purposelessness, haunted by infirmity, can clap hands and sing. A lonely ex-cleaning store owner finds the shadow of his hang-out youth's old gang in the laundry room. There are lovers: one attuned pair face down a roomful of sour spouses and children; two classy sports--one with five husbands, the other a beach Romeo--join talents. Moments of twilight recognition: a father and son rediscover their love; one woman's children may be ""failures"" in life but not in generous, open-hearted regard for their mother--a rarity in Sunset Gardens. And, in the last story, a woman resists a ""home"" with extraordinary will and courage. With the rich compassion of a Markfield and a hint of Singer's story-telling ease, the recently very active Adler (The Trans-Siberian Express, p. 441) seems to be on his way.