His Oldest Friend: A Story of an Unlikely Bond
Times Books, 2006 (2005)
Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch
lvis and Margaret are as different as two people can be. Elvis, who was twenty at the time the book was written, is originally from the Dominican Republic and is now living in Manhattan. He grew up poor, on the streets, with a distracted mother, and an absent father. He is trying to find his purpose in life, and trying hard to stay out of trouble. Margaret Oliver (Ms. Oliver) is a ninety-three year old nursing home resident. She is one of the few mentally acute residents and is often lonely. Her eyesight is failing, and often, she needs extra help that the nursing home employees are not always willing or able to provide.
espite their three quarter of a century age gap, Elvis and Ms. Oliver form a friendship. Their relationship started off as a paying job for Elvis, but then he continued visiting her just because they enjoyed talking with each other.
appreciated the underlying theme of this book, including respect for the elderly and how much wisdom they can impart. The elderly are indeed an undervalued, almost forgotten segment of our society, and I liked the author's message that they really do have something to teach us.
onetheless, I felt that the book was missing something. The author certainly provided a lot of background information about Elvis' life and upbringing, but I didn't feel that the reader really got to know Ms. Oliver very well, which is why I had a hard time fully understanding their connection.
any of the chapters were just a repetition of routine conversations between the two - I kept envisioning the author in the room jotting down all their conversations and following Elvis around while he met up with his friends and girlfriend. The book would have been stronger if it had been written in the first person; the presence of the third-party author was too noticeable and therefore, the book lacked an element of authenticity.
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