The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old Review
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Politicians frequently debate and make their own decisions about how best to care for the nation’s oldest citizens. But in the mysterious possible memoir The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old, an elderly Dutch man offers readers his own perspective on nursing homes and the so-called “twilight years.”

The story follows a year in the life of Hendrik Groen, an octogenarian living in a retirement home in North Amsterdam. As the year 2013 begins, the normally reserved senior citizen decides to keep a diary of his thoughts and experiences—partially as a way of finally speaking his mind (if only on paper) but also to expose the world of elder care (to be read, of course, after his death). But as the months pass, it becomes more than just an exposé; it’s also a way to document his friendships and his quest to enjoy life while he and his friends still can.

Since his book’s Dutch release last year, pseudonymous author Hendrik Groen has been shrouded in mystery—since no one knows who (or how old) he really is. Whatever the case, though, he’s managed to pen a remarkable tale of friendship and love, mischief and mobility scooters.

From the beginning, Groen’s Secret Diary is wry and witty—sometimes shockingly funny. The humor is often dark and most definitely Dutch, following the author’s running commentary on his fellow “inmates” and their life inside their home. He discusses the people around him and the politics that affect them. As the weeks and months pass, though, his perspective changes a bit. He falls in love with a new resident, and he becomes involved in the Old But Not Dead Club—a group of residents who take turns planning fun-filled outings. And while the sarcasm and random, silly observations are still there, there’s something else to it, too.

Of course, though, underneath it all, there’s also a touch of sadness. In a community of seniors, it’s to be expected that they won’t all be fit and healthy all the time. Groen’s circle of friends faces sickness, surgery, and dementia—and the way the friends band together and help each other out is sometimes truly moving. And, when it all comes together, it’s a book that will make you laugh out loud and shed a few tears—and it’s sure to give you a new perspective on living life and growing older.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old is a little bit of everything: it’s clever and madcap and sweet and surprisingly poignant. It’s entirely enjoyable and memorable, too—definitely a worthwhile read.

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