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The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen Book Cover The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen
Hendrik Groen
Grand Central Publishing
July 11, 2017

Hendrik Groen may be old, but he is far from dead and isn't planning to be buried any time soon. Granted, his daily strolls are getting shorter because his legs are no longer willing and he has to visit his doctor more than he'd like. Technically speaking he is...elderly. But surely there is more to life at his age than weak tea and potted geraniums?

Hendrik sets out to write an exposé: a year in the life of his care home in Amsterdam, revealing all its ups and downs--not least his new endeavor the anarchic Old-But-Not-Dead Club. And when Eefje moves in--the woman Hendrik has always longed for--he polishes his shoes (and his teeth), grooms what's left of his hair and attempts to make something of the life he has left, with hilarious, tender and devastating consequences.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen will not only delight older readers with its wit and relevance, but will charm and inspire those who have years to go before their own expiry date.

My review:

I'm not always big on books being compared to other books (Gone Girl anyone? Ugh). When this came to me as a comparison to A Man Called Ove and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I was hesitant. I can see some similarities between these books, but Hendrik definitely stands on his own! Told in diary form, completely in Hendrik's voice, we hear about a year in the life of a man in an assisted living facility in the Netherlands. Groen is candid about the living conditions, his fellow "inmates" (as he calls them), the day to day boredom, as well as the occasional sparks of fun (largely created by him and his squad of Old But Not Dead club members). There is humor, there is friendship, there is mischief, there is sadness, there is compassion and there is certainly distain for the whiners and complainers amongst his fellow residents.  I absolutely fell in love with Hendrik, as well as several of the other residents. I've heard that there is another diary coming, and I can't wait to see what the characters continue to be up to while trying to remain positive and upbeat in their twilight years.

One of my favorite quotes (about his fellow inmates): "We lose some capacities as we age, but being a busybody isn't one of them."

An absolute must read for anyone who knows of someone in an assisted living facility (my father was in one for years, and my mother-in-law is currently a resident). I laughed until I cried at several points when he described something happening such as the assigned seating for meals, and the problem with all the mobility devices on elevators! I can only hope to be like Hendrik (or at least have someone like him as a friend) when I grow old.

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