Entertaining novels about people our age
December 1, 2020
Every day I take a 45-minute walk around my neighborhood, and the last few months I have noticed something rather curious. Every week or two I walk past a car parked in the street with someone just sitting in it, often reading a book. I don’t strike up a conversation because they seem totally engrossed in their pursuit, and pointedly sealed into their metal and glass capsule. Maybe they seek solace from the kids? The spouse? Loud music? Inner demons? Not really sure.
Regardless of where you choose to read, or why, here are some suggestions you might consider. All these books feature main characters who are older persons. I try to pick highly rated books that tilt toward the uplifting rather than the depressing sensibilities. Perhaps one or two of them will strike your fancy.
"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens
An oldie but a goody. It’s fun, a little sappy, fits the season, and will make you feel good in the end. Remember Ebenezer Scrooge? He’s the old codger who said, “‘If I had my way, every idiot who goes around with Merry Christmas on his lips, would be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. Merry Christmas? Bah humbug!” All it takes is a few ghosts and some intense hallucinations, and Scrooge becomes the neighborhood Mr. Rogers.
"A Man Called Ove" by Fredrik Backman
This is one of my all-time favorite reads. It runs funny to bittersweet, is very well-written, and is a compelling read. I know from personal experience that we grumpy old guys need just a little tender loving care, and we bloom like an exuberant sunflower.
“Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So, when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.”
"Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" by Fannie Flagg
“It’s first the story of two women in the 1980s, of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women -- of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth, who back in the 1930s ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder.”
One reader describes the book this way: “I loved the southern charm in this novel that weaves together the past and present through the friendship between Evelyn Crouch, a middle-aged housewife, and Ninny Threadgoode, an elderly woman who lives in a nursing home. I loved the references to food and recipes in the novel and came away really wanting to try some of them. Terrific character development makes this one a memorable read and I am so glad this is the book that gave me the five-star read I was craving.”
"Driving Miss Daisy" by Alfred Uhry
“The place is the Deep South, the time 1948, just prior to the civil rights movement. Having recently demolished another car, Daisy Wertham, a rich, sharp-tongued Jewish widow of seventy-two, is informed by her son, Boolie, that henceforth she must rely on the services of a chauffeur. The person he hires for the job is a thoughtful, unemployed black man, Hoke, whom Miss Daisy immediately regards with disdain and who, in turn, is not impressed with his employer’s patronizing tone and, he believes, her latent prejudice. But, in a series of absorbing scenes spanning twenty-five years, the two, despite their mutual differences, grow ever closer to, and more dependent on, each other, until, eventually, they become almost a couple.”
"Our Souls at Night" by Kent Haruf
“A spare yet eloquent, bittersweet yet inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together to wrestle with the events of their lives and their hopes for the imminent future.”
One reader sums up her feelings about the book in these words, “This is an absolutely beautiful story of two people who give comfort to each late in life. I laughed and I cried! I just loved this novel! It is so well written and so lovely.”