An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten

Imagine a Swedish Miss Marple who commits murders instead of solving them, and you’ve got a good start on understanding Maud, the character in Helene Tursten’s collection of stories An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, and its sequel An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed.

Maud is 88, which leads many people to think she’s soft and vulnerable – but they’re very wrong. In fact she’s as sharp and fit as ever, although she has discovered the advantages of having a cane or wheeled walker handy. She spends most of her time traveling the world, making up for lost time after spending years working to support an ill sister. It’s a quiet and enjoyable life, until problems arise that require Maud’s unique solutions. From an artist trying to steal her spacious apartment to a noisy neighbor to a thieving antique dealer, all her would-be invaders and offenders meet a sudden and sticky end, leaving Maud with her peaceful lifestyle intact.

Like Maud, this book is small and quaint in appearance but hiding darkness within, and I absolutely loved the contrast and the dry humor with which Maud’s stories are told. It was also strangely enjoyable to imagine solving everyday annoyances and inconveniences in such an extreme way, maybe because it puts everyday squabbles into perspective. Whatever the case, the triumph of Maud over a society that continually underestimates her is enjoyable to read.

If you’re looking for an escapist romp that shows how getting older can mean getting craftier – and getting even – try these books.

Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall

essays after eightyLet me first admit that the way I discovered this book was not when I placed it on my “to-be-ordered” list or when I stumbled upon it by happenstance in the library. Instead, I was talking about BookFace Friday. This event happens every Friday when librarians and other bookish people find books with people’s faces as the cover, pose with them as their actual face, and post pictures on their social media accounts. (Still confused? Check out the Instagram page for BookFace Friday.) As I was looking up examples to show, I found someone using this book as their face. I was instantly intrigued by the title and immediately wrote it down to order/read.

Donald Hall, former U.S. poet laureate, constructed Essays After Eighty as a way to describe for others the vantage point of life at very old age. The essays Hall has written for this collection intricately weave subjects like death, aging, being limited when you reach old age, traveling in foreign countries, honorary degrees, his love of garlic, and just what is actually important to you when you reach his age. Describing for readers his deep love for his home, the deceased love of his life, and how to deal with growing older are just some of the topics Hall broaches in this enduring collection. Hall extends back to his past in some essays describing scenes that stand out in his mind to the present where he spends his time at Eagle Pond Farm.

Be sure to check out this book to read more about Hall’s life as a biographer, children’s author, and as a human being trying to figure out how to deal with everything old age has thrown at him.