Archive for the ‘growing old’ Tag

Growing Old With Attitude   Leave a comment

No! I Don't Want to Join a Book Club by Virginia Ironside

Imagine Bridget Jones at age 60 and you’ll have a good idea of Marie Sharp, the narrator of the terribly-titled No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club. Ironically, I received this apty subtitled paperback – “Diary of a 6oth year” – at my own book club’s holiday gift exchange. Rest assured, I have no intention of leaving my book group!

Author Virginia Ironside tells Marie’s story through diary entries. Marie is a no-nonsense woman about to turn 60; she has no qualms about doing so. Rather, she embraces the idea of the milestone birthday as a rite of passage which will allow her to do as she pleases rather than striving to meet expectations held by others. In the process she has decided to give up men and focus on a few close friendships. She vows not to do anything she doesn’t want to, in addition to avoiding book clubs this includes joining a gym and learning Italian.

Marie is a former art teacher, divorcee, the mother of a grown son and has several good friends. References to her carefree days in the 1960s indicate she hasn’t spent her life as a stick-in-the-mud.

Ironside injects plenty of humor among several poignant observations. Predictably, Marie experiences the cycle of life and plenty of surprises during the 18 months of entries she shares. She is, perhaps, most surprised by the depth of emotion she has for her newborn grandson. Despite her vow of no romantic liaisons, it’s possible that door may not be completely barricaded.

No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club
Three-and-a-half bookmarks
Plume Books, 2008
231 pages


A Man of Character   2 comments


This is a good time of year for a heartwarming story, even a predictable one. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman fits the bill.

Ove is a Saab man. He’s not employed by the Swedish automaker, he’s loyal to it. It’s his gauge of measuring a person’s character (in Ove’s world it usually applies to men). Ove is all about character. He raises his eyebrows at those who drive BMWs or Audis; he tolerates Volvos.

Set in his ways like a train on a track, Ove only cares about his route. Except, anyone sharing his path must abide by the same rules he does. He doesn’t necessarily set the directives only that he follows them to an extreme.

At times funny and sad, Ove’s story is initially about his decision that it’s time for his life to end. Of course, this is no laughing matter, but humor surfaces as life intervenes in his efforts to take action. Distractions get in the way. He must contend with neighbors, a stray cat, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and his wife Sonja.

Set in Sweden, Backman alternates chapters to reveal Ove’s past and its impact on the present. It’s easy to visualize Ove as a grumpy old man, although he’s only 59; it’s also not difficult to see, or at least initially suspect, there’s more than meets the eye. It’s most evident in his love for Sonja. What happens comes as a surprise to Ove and the reader.

A Man Called Ove
Three and three-quarters Bookmarks
Fredrik Backman
Atria Books, 2014
337 pages

A Different Kind of Guidebook   4 comments


Anna Quindlen’s Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is a poignant, yet cheerful perspective on getting older. This is the kind of book to share with friends, particularly if they’re around the age of what is now considered to be the new-40s.

As in most of her writing, Quindlen relies on personal experience to make her points. Her writing career includes several stints as a columnist (at the New York Times and later Newsweek) as well as authoring several works of fiction, nonfiction and children’s books. She has a keen sense of observation. Better still, she’s an extraordinary wordsmith. Those two skills result in crafting pieces readers can easily make connections with. Of control, she writes: “I thought I had a handle on my future. But the future, it turns out, is not a tote bag.”

Quindlen examines the important aspects of life, which can be applied to most people, women in particular: friendship, family, love, parenting, and more. She’s humorous and honest. She writes of near-misses, both good and bad. She reflects on how much her younger self was sure she knew and how her older self readily acknowledges what she doesn’t. Without citing the tired phrase that youth is squandered on the young, it’s a major thread. Quindlen puts a new spin on it.

Yes, this is a memoir, but it is much more. It’s a guidebook to accepting that each morning we wake up is a gift – even if we’re older than we were the day before.

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake
Four Bookmarks
Random House 2012
182 pages