Hendrik Groen is 83 1/4 years old, and he feels like he holds back. He wants to be someone who is able to speak his mind, so he decides to start a diary, hoping that it will help him feel bolder and be truer to himself. He wants his diary to be not only an attempt to be a better Hendrik, but he wants to write an honest expose of a year in the life of a senior living facility in Amsterdam.
While Henk's diary does talk about the struggles of being older in a society that values youth, and he talks about the challenges of being on a fixed income and dealing with various ailments, that is just the background noise to this story. Because the real story here is the tale of Henk and his friends, the tale of Oldsters Gone Wild.
Okay, maybe not completely wild, but Henk and his friend Evert definitely have a rebellious streak, and their escapades set the tongues at the home wagging. First, there is the business of someone putting cake into the fish tank. And then these two troublemakers and a group of four other friends form the Old But Not Dead Club and plan excursions for themselves that far outweigh any diversion that the retirement home has come up with. Fancy meals, trips to museums, gambling, sports, picnics, and plenty of wine keeps this group young at heart.
Fans of The Office, those who love Fredrik Backman's novels, readers of Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole diaries, and anyone who wants to celebrate everything that makes life worth living, no matter your age, will enjoy this book. But be warned: if you're expecting a quiet, mannerly book about old people being well behaved, you will be very disappointed. However, if you want an honest, moving, heart-breaking, hilarious look at real life at 83 1/4 years of age, then Hendrik can tell you a thing or two. And when I say hilarious, I mean it. I don't remember how many times I had to put the book down to finish laughing. It's a tour de force of joie de vivre, and it is a truly lovely book to read and to share with friends and family.
Galleys for The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen was provided by Grand Central Publishing through NetGalley.com, with many thanks.