The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home by Joanna Nell surprised me. I was expecting a series of funny anecdotes about people in nursing homes. Instead, I found a sympathetic and moving account of the many difficulties that residents encounter, which wasn’t without its funny moments. Both my parents spent many years in nursing homes so I could identify with many of the issues raised by the story.
The story focuses on two main characters Hattie, a single lady who wrote nature books and articles and Walter a driving instructor who prided himself on having a perfect record of students passing their tests. Both are at the nursing home on respite following health incidents. They are biding their time until they can go home. Yet as they interact with other residents, staff and family, their preconceptions mellow. We’re shown the value of camaraderie and community.
Alternate chapters were written from Hattie and Walter’s point of view. This worked well and often we were given both characters perspectives on the same event. I enjoyed the way the rooms were named after Monopoly properties which created interest and helped to identify the rooms of the other residents.
The climax of the story was their “great escape” which wasn’t what I expected but was more endearing and led to a satisfying ending.
Overall a well-told, engaging and thoughtful story of life in a nursing home context.
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