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review 2018-06-01 22:01
A very tender story about senior citizens
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ Years Old - Hendrik Groen,Hester Velmans

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ years old-Hendrik Groen, author.

This is a very tenderly written epistolary novel written with a subtle humor. Hendrik Groen lives in a nursing home in the wing for independent seniors. His friend Evert lives in his own apartment in the same facility. His dear friend Eefje lives in the same wing as Hendrik, and she has had a positive effect on his life and he on hers. They have a deep and comfortable friendship that keeps growing until the consequences of life intervene.

Hendrik has made a decision to keep a diary for the year 2013, to let people get to know the real Hendrik Groen through his private entries. His daily posts are heartwarming comments are genuine, alternating, at times, between melancholia and wit, depending on the events of his day. During the year of 2013, he turns 84 and expresses a hope to be around a bit longer, but realistically, he knows that his days are numbered and chance plays a big part in his continued presence in the world.

As his entries reveal what life is like for him and for the other residents, in this sterile institution, it also reveals how the residents look upon their own lives. Their moods and ideas run the gamut from hopefulness to hopelessness. They have dreams, although they have little to hope for, they have fears, although they have little control of what is coming their way. Some of the elderly make the most of every opportunity, facing everyday optimistically; some face the future with dread. Some don’t venture outside for fear of what the future will bring. Some have decided to behave in anyway they please since consequences have little effect on them so late in the game. They may even take risks.

When a small group of residents decide to form a group called The Old But Not Dead Club, planning bimonthly mystery outings, it gives them a purpose they had not had before. It gives them a reason to go on living. However, this tight knit intimate group of friends is causing angst in the world of other nursing home residents because they resent the fact that they were not included in the group, not asked to join in their fun. Each of the actual members of this group has his/her own distinct personality ranging from cantankerous to compassionate, but they all get along regardless of their different ways of approaching life, because they all like and respect each other, and they all enjoy being with each other. They accept each other’s little idiosyncrasies and forgive them their little lapses.

As the friendship between Hendrik and Eefje grows, his nature begins to soften; he is so comfortable with her, whether or not they speak or stay silent. They tolerate each others differences and enjoy each others similarities without judgment. For Evert, she becomes an important stabilizing part of his life, a part that brings him joy and contentment, a part that inspires him to continue to live and participate in life rather than sitting by a window and vacantly staring outside at the lives of others. He begins to take greater chances, buys himself a scooter and wishes he had done so sooner since it opened up the world for him. He accepts his need for a diaper to keep his hygiene up to snuff rather than fighting the inevitable. He begins to make plans to do things and to care more about each member in his growing group of friends. When some of the members begin their decline, he is kind and considerate, doing what he can to help them. He investigates ways to help Grietje deal with her Alzheimers and Evert to deal with the loss of a limb. He walks his dog for him. When Eefje is ill, he reads to her and gets her an ipod so she can listen to music. He visits her daily, sometimes more than once. However, he still continues to make a conscious decision to live out his own life and not give up, albeit with the help of Evert who puts iron in his back. Evert convinces him to stop wasting his time, convinces him to decide, move on or give up. He decides to continue to live each day to its fullest. Evert, on the other hand, is determined to make as much mischief as possible until the end of his. How bad can the consequences be?

The book deftly handles the inevitable issues that will arise in a home for the aged. Old people are in a state of decline that will never improve, but instead, will steadily get worse. Some will become physically ill; some will have strokes, falls or other mishaps, while others will sink into the world of mindlessness, dementia or Alzheimer’s. Not all will follow that road, though. Some will live out all their days, self aware and healthy until their last breath. The trick is for the resident to keep on hoping, keep on doing, to keep on creating encouraging ideas, to keep a stiff upper lip and an optimistic view. The trick is for the residence management to provide that atmosphere for them.

As the residents are subjected to the bureaucracy that controls what they can and cannot do. They are subjected to the slings and arrows of life. Some handle them more delicately than others. Some are dignified and some behave poorly. Some rail against the end of life and some appear to welcome it, preferring to choose the time of their death. None, however, wish to die in pain or in a vegetative state. Laws and the powers that be will often prevent their merciful release, however and will often take away their power to decide for themselves, and instead, treat them the way they once treated their own children, guiding them in the direction they thought was best. These are not children, however, and many want the right to decide things for themselves. Once they are able to taste that feeling of freedom that they once had, they are less afraid to face the future, and they are far happier.

I chose to read this book in small increments to enjoy the pleasure from it in small doses. I kept it on my nightstand and   simply picked it up at will, reading a few entries at a time to put a knowing smile on my lips. None of us, if we are lucky, will escape the aging process, but we all need to deal with it. Hendrik’s diary lays out our options for us, clearly. He seems to come round to the theory of a friend of mine, someone with troubles galore, who announces to all that she has a choice to be happy or sad, and she chooses to be happy. I think that the year 2013, was the year that Groen chose to be happy, to find hope and opportunity where it presented itself and to deal with life’s foibles, great and small, gracefully. It is a lifestyle he hopes to continue as long as he can. He will continue writing in a diary.

It was heartwarming to witness the way he cared for those in greater need than himself and to read about the way each of the friends and residents rallied around each other when the need arose, providing comfort and care as necessary, although there was the curmudgeon or two that defied that image.

In my research, I discovered that Hendrik Groen, the author’s name, is a pseudonym for Peter de Smet, a Dutch author who does not seek fame, ergo little is known about him. He is not a resident of a senior home, and this is not his diary. In his words, “Not a sentence is dishonest, but not every word is true.” Yet he has authentically captured the feelings of the elderly, their dreams and hopes, their stress and disappointment, their fear and their frustration.

The book presents Interesting topics for discussion in a book group. Groen illuminates the real degradation and debilitation that aging causes and also illustrates its effect on the elderly as their lives diminish in size and scope. Opportunities and possibilities no longer exist as they used to when youth prevailed. The formation of the group that conducted twice monthly trips was literally a “lifesaver” for these elderly residents because in spite of the dead end that they all faced, they all had hope to live, and more importantly, to enjoy another day.

The right to die would be an interesting topic for discussion as is the availability of services for the elderly who sometimes outlive their money because they lived a lot longer than they expected. The elimination of services for them because of cost cutting is traumatic for them, but inevitable when others deal with it. They think they will die anyway, so why waste money on them. The bureaucracy that interferes with their quality of life, the rules and regulations that control their ability to be independent because of a fear of accident and litigation is also an interesting topic for discussion. Everyone goes down this road; everyone needs to address the concerns raised in this book.

Although it is told with tremendous warmth and humor, it is also very heart wrenching as the residents succumb to the inevitabilities of life that aging brings to them, from diapers, to lack of mobility, to slower reflexes and forgetfulness, to mention a few. Losing friends forces them to deal with a constant overlay of sadness, forces them to face the path open to them from independence to dependence, to deal with the depression and a desire to try and control what is left to them, of life. Unfortunately, regulations interfere with their quality of life on all levels. Where they used to make their own decisions, others step in to make the decisions for them, often decisions they disagree with but are helpless to change. Aging brings helplessness to its victims and it is a constant effort to find ways to bring back strength and control to their lives, to bring back hope.

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text 2018-05-31 17:39
Ana: 20 Years

 

20 years

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url 2018-05-01 21:47
May's Amazon First Reads (formerly Kindle First)
Lies That Binds Us - Andrew Hart
A Marriage in Dog Years - Nancy Balbirer
The Speed of Sound - Eric Bernt
Never Stop Walking: A Memoir of Finding Home Across the World - Tara F. Chace,Christina Rickardsson
Matchmaking for Beginners - Maddie Dawson
True - Karl Taro Greenfeld

U.S. prime members get one free arc from the Amazon publishing imprints shown.  (Not a borrow, just like buying the kindle edition.)

Source: www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/firstreads
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text 2018-04-29 21:20
I will not buy your fucking book*
A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership - James Comey
Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History - Katy Tur
Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling - Matthew Chozick
Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doom... Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign - Jonathan Allen,Amie Parnes

* with apologies to Josh Olson

 

To make money, and piles of it, off the mess you helped to create and which is hurting millions upon millions upon millions of people, is like killing your parents and then claiming mercy because you're an orphan.

 

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-04-25 02:18
R@pe, Pedophili@ and Incest
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Oprah's Book Club) - Gabriel García Márquez
WARNINGS WARNINGS 
I don't recommend this book if you feel uncomfortable with books that depict graphically

* Pedophilia/rape [ A 9 year old girl forced to marry and later bear a child to a grown man (hide spoiler)]

* Incest/child abuse [ The Buendia family members are constantly falling in love with close cousins, half brothers, nephews. An older woman Amarantha makes out with her underage nephew (hide spoiler)]
* Non sensical Violence [ including the cruel death of a newborn, and that's the ending scene. This book leaves you feeling disturbed (hide spoiler)]
*Prostitution
* Cheating
* Bestiality
* Women treated as objects sometimes by their own parents


description
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If you like me grew up reading marvelous books like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Twilight, The Hunger games, which are all extremely strong in terms of characterization and character development and which are at times trashed by the same critics that praised this piece of cr%p, I doubt you'll enjoy this book because:

* No plot, everything is a messy mix of twisted, and I mean TWISTED, disturbing, cringe-inducing family anecdotes
*No character development. 
* Poor character presentation. Other than I know that Amarantha is somehow fierce it's difficult to describe the rest of the characters personalities. What are their goals? What do they want? What do they fear? Who are they? What are their motivations?
* Poor worldbuilding. Am I supposed to know how Macondo, the setting of this book looks like? All I know is that Macondo founders were trying to reach the sea and they couldn't and were tired of travelling so I know there's no sea close to this town. The rules of this world don't seem to follow a logic, either. It's like Garcia Marques just smoke weed and added whatever he saw when he was under the effects of the weed to add magical elements here and there. I rarely notice worldbuilding issues in my reads because I have a strong imagination. Even books that don't describe the rules of their worlds or the setting properly don't turn me off, but since this book is universally praised as a "master piece" I was expecting more. 
* No coherent timeline, Little to No dialogue
* Author breaking the rule of show don't tell 98% of the book

description


I should have tried to convince my professor to change this assigment. I should've told him that this kind of topics are potential PTSD triggers for me (which is 100% true, although usually books don't activate triggers for me, certain kind of music and smells are triggering for me) or that they are against my religious beliefs (that'd been a lie, but I wish I had lied) Maybe it wouldn't have worked and still I'd been stuck to read this horrible book, but these professors should be more responsible when assigining this kind of disturbing readings and forcing people to read them taking away our sacred right of DNF a book we don't enjoy .

I'm aware that the author won a Nobel Prize, but it seems to me that it was more like the academy thought it'd be rebellious and edgy to give an award to this author leaving other more talented authors out, therefore steering controversy. Sort of like they did when they gaveBob Dylan the Nobel Prize even if he's a songwriter and poet more than a book writer.

I don't even know who is supposed to enjoy this book. I think that some Hispanic readers might find something good in this book because it seems to me that the author at times was talking about Colombian/Hispanic political issues in a metaphoric way, but honestly there wasn't enough of that.

Also, the opening line of this book is supposedly matter of study in English literature courses around the world 


'Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.'


I can see why some readers might find that intriguing and get hooked from there, but I read a lot of books with great opening lines/paragraphs in commercial literature. Angefall by Susan EE, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Maze Runner by James Dashner have strong opening lines that get you hooked. I think every reader gets hooked by different opening lines, so why critics and scholars think this opening line is better than any is beyond me. However, I'll say that the ending scene was strong and extremely disturbing. It's a scene that will make you feel haunted and in search of a happy reading because [ A newborn is eaten by ants. You're supposed to imagine the ants carrying only the carcass of what was moments before a lovely baby ... who was born with a pigtail O_O (hide spoiler)]

I'm only writing this because I need to organize my ideas for my essay. I doubt that writing my honest opinion about this trash will earn me a good mark, so I'm trying to find an angle to write about. Maybe I can write about the role of women in Garcia's books. The other Garcia's book I read was Chronicle of a foretold death which was thankfully short and somehow realistic, but still 100% misogynist. An oudated view of women is common in this author's writings.
My recommendations if you are forced to read this author:

* Write notes for each time a new Buendia appears. There are at least a dozen characters sharing almost the exact name and that is confusing
* Don't expect character development, don't expect world building
* Don't expect brilliant dialogue, although you can expect beautiful monologues
* Expect a lot of info-dumping and exposition
* Expect a lot of magical elements, but not the kind of magic that makes you want to live in this world.
* Expect a lot of misogynism It's like the author comes from ancient times or the Taliban and his views on women are very outdated. As a demi-feminist some scenes were hard to stomach.
* Keep an enjoyable read at hand because sometimes you're tired of this world and you want to get out of it by reading something good.

Long story short, this book is way Overrated. Overrated doesn't cover it. I think the author, may he rest in peace, might have written it under the effects of the weed.


description

Best reviews I found on GR:
Martine's

Adam's

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1814633475
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