HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE YOU MAKE
Lessons From a Year Among the Oldest Old
By John Leland
243 pp. Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux
The book offers a chance to revisit six fascinating lives. Its ensemble cast includes Helen Moses, 91, who falls in love with her neighbor, Howie, at a Bronx nursing home; Fred Jones, 88, who struggles to reach his third-floor walk-up apartment after gangrene claimed parts of two toes; Ping Wong, 90, originally from Hong Kong, who lucked into subsidized housing and fills her days with mah-jongg; Ruth Willig, 91, who must readjust after an unwanted move from one assisted-living facility to another; Jonas Mekas, 92, a Lithuanian-born filmmaker who dedicates his life to art; and the sad-eyed but dignified Sorensen, who has longed to die ever since Walter, his partner of 60 years, passed away in 2009.
Their stories are appealingly diverse, but therein lies Leland’s greatest challenge. How does a columnist knit together a series of free-ranging articles — a sequence of portraits captured in real time, featuring disparate topics and voices? Some publish collections. Others add connective tissue. Leland chose to do the latter, grafting in material from many origins. He cites research findings.
A review in Goodreads: Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the