Off the Shelf: Nursing Home Fiction

Posted September 16, 2021

By Jan Vaughn
Warren-Trumbull County Public Library Deputy Director

What could be more sad and demoralizing than reading works set in a nursing home, you ask? I’m here to let you know that you couldn’t be more wrong!

These five delightful books are centered around individuals who are in retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes but these locations are not filled with people who are just counting the days until Death comes. These literary characters have hopes, dreams, intellectual curiosity – and there’s a lot more to their stories than you’d imagine.

These are dignified people who are making their lives meaningful within the confines of where they are habituating. These people make friends, they are friends, they solve mysteries, they go on adventures, and they are still engaged in living. They have frailties, diseases, take medications, and may be a little slower than they used to be, but they are not to be discounted.

“Never assume” should be the attitude when diving into these wonderful and moving works.

The Great Unexpected by Dan Mooney is a novel about a curmudgeon and his eccentric new roommate. Joel is fed up with his life in the nursing home now that his wife has passed away. When a retired soap opera actor named Frank moves in, they somehow bond. Together, they discover it’s never too late to find friendship and adventure if you can move past loss.
Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon is all about secrets. Eighty-four-year-old Florence has fallen in her retirement community home. As she waits for rescue, she ponders why the home’s newest resident looks exactly like a man she used to know – a man who died 60 years ago. Only Florence’s best friend Elsie believes her, and they set out to unravel the past.
In The Big Finish by Brooke Fossey, we meet Duffy who is now resigned to life in a nursing home, having (in his estimation) wasted his first 88 years. His roommate Carl helps keep Duffy on the straight and narrow. But Carl’s desperate granddaughter climbs through their bedroom window with a black eye one evening. The men are faced with upending their current lifestyle to include hitchhiking, barhopping, and maybe even some unexpected friendships.
Four retirement village friends meet each week to discuss unsolved crimes in The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. When a local developer is found dead, the Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case. They may be old, but they’re still clever, and vow that they’ll see the case through to its end. Even as it puts them all in grave danger.
Miss Cecily’s Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman finds Kate Parker, on the eve of her 40th birthday, with a life in shambles. Worse yet, she finds herself volunteering to demonstrate cooking at the Lauderdale House for Exceptional Ladies. There, she meets one fed-up 97-year old resident, Miss Cecily, who gifts Kate with a self-help cookbook. It’s unique, written by Cecily herself, and filled with recipes to help cope with whatever life dishes out, including “dinner for a charming stranger” and “tea for a crotchety aunt”.

Want to read more?

Use the library’s Novelist Plus online research resource and type in the keywords “nursing home patients – fiction”. It will offer up a huge list of similar books. You can refine your search specifically for adult readers along the left side of the page, which will weed out books for children or teens.

How to find Novelist Plus on the library website: > Check It Out > What to Read Next

Under the “Read-Alikes & More” heading, click the link to Novelist Plus. If you’re at home, be sure to choose Novelist Plus (At Home Access).

Happy reading!