The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home by Joanna Nell is a heart-warming story about the challenges faced when growing older, the struggles of an ageing body and mind and the loneliness that is often experienced by many. In a world rocked by Covid-19 where many of us have been forced to make hard choices about seeing our own elderly parents and grandparents, it brings these realities into sharp focus in a poignant tale that will leave you feeling more empathetic towards the older people in your life.
You’ll meet Hattie, who at almost ninety has found her independence severely curtailed after a fall lands her in the Woodlands Nursing Home. A retired nature writer and bird enthusiast Hattie revolts against the disciplined structure that she must now conform to, and in fact the book begins with her attempting to escape from the home!
Walter is another resident at the home, this nonagenarian who was a professional driving instructor has suffered the embarrassment of having his license revoked after he was involved in a car accident and he’s also recently become a widower. Determined to get his pride back Walter has his heart set on winning the right to take charge of his mobility scooter, all the while sweet-talking the nurses and various therapists he meets along the way.
The somber tone of the loneliness and loss these two feel, both from the grief of a lost loved one and the frustrations of lost freedom, is lightened by the humour as they meet at The Night Owls, a secret club run at night by Sister Bronwyn and her unofficial therapy dog Queenie. As the residents’ face death among their friends, they are forced to face up to the fear of their own mortality. But these very real emotions are offset perfectly with a few good laughs as the old folks show they still have what it takes to pull off some pranks and enjoy the small things that bring joy in life.
Currently facing the reality of my own parents growing older and adjusting to a new phase of their life, The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home made me pause to consider their feelings even more. With the fast-paced life of school runs, extra murals, homework, washing, cooking and the general busyness that comes with being a mom and raising children it’s often easy to forget the slower paced lifestyle our older generation has. This book will make you laugh, it will probably even make you cry, but more than that The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home will fill your heart with love, patience and understanding, and for that reason alone I would recommend reading it.
The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home is available for a recommended retail price of R355.
Thanks to Jonathan Ball Publishers for sharing this book with me.