Old Friends (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Tracy Kidder’s reportage is distinguished by its ability to render scenes from real life with the graceful language and narrative drama more commonly associated with works of fiction. The most frequent praise bestowed upon Kidder, in fact, is that he writes with the transformative powers of a novelist, performing the alchemy required to turn the ordinary into something extraordinary.
Since writing The Soul of a New Machine (1981), a Pulitzer Prize-winning book that chronicles the creation of a computer by a team of engineers, Kidder has turned his talents to more humble human endeavors. House (1985) charted the construction of a home, and Among Schoolchildren (1989) followed a schoolteacher and her class of fifth-graders. In Old Friends, Kidder records the passing of a year of life in Linda Manor, a nursing home located in western Massachusetts. Given Kidder’s previous slice-of-life style, the reader can expect a complete and candid look at the institution. What must it be like to live there? To be that infirm? That demented? Where do hope and solace come from in such a setting? To be forced by failing health to enter a nursing home is, after all, many an elderly American’s worst nightmare.
By definition, entering a nursing home means leaving behind one’s home. It means mourning the loss of a place in the community, however diminished by ill-health that place may have become. It means bidding...
(The entire section is 2199 words.)
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