Gumption: Lessons on Old Age, Loneliness, and a Hotdish

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9780878394043: Gumption: Lessons on Old Age, Loneliness, and a Hotdish
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Russ, an eighty-two-year old widower, is awakened one blustery winter night by a phone alert from an emergency monitoring center―his best friend Rich has pressed the Help button. The situation that night is more than just some quick action for Russ. It’s a wake-up call to the dark reality of Rich’s failing health. Now Russ will have to consider his loyalty to the remaining cohorts in his self-made support group of old guys eating together. Limited to the six that fit in a car, the Gang, as they are known in the rural Minnesota town, has a reputation, even in the neighboring counties. Russ’s loyalty will be tested again when Agnes happens by with her home cooking and woodsy pleasures. But how can Russ, “the driver,” let the Gang down? Will Agnes’ can-do attitude with a bit of savvy timing set them all in motion?

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About the Author:

Maybe it was the twenty years as a paralegal that prepared Faye best for the pure joy of creative writing. Material too was abundant from years of her dad’s stories and from her own experiences growing up in small-town-America―Morgan, Minnesota. In 2004, Faye submitted “Russel Albrecht, The Soldier,” to The Veterans History Project in Washington, D.C.―stories she compiled from her dad’s narration of his experiences in Europe 1944 to 1946. In March 2006 Running Times Magazine featured “Cross-Culture Running with Faye’s South of the Border.” Faye has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota. She volunteers at Ambassador Good Samaritan Nursing Home in New Hope, Minnesota, and for Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. She and her husband reside in Golden Valley, Minnesota, and, for three months each year, in Manzanillo, Mexico. For more information, please visit www.fayeberger.com

Review:

I LAUGHED. I cried. I nodded my head and thought, 'by golly, she got thai right.' 'She' would be Faye Berger, author of Gumption, a book about small-town life, aging and the value of friendship. No matter your age, where you live, or where you grew up, you will be moved by the honesty and genuineness in this story about Berger's father, Russel Albrecht, and the late-life friendships he forms with a group of widowers known as 'The Gang' Set in Berger's hometown of Morgan, this book depicts the daily goings-on in this small southwestern Minnesota town. Anyone familiar with rural Minnesota will recognize the talk about crops and weather, the daily gatherings of men for cards and coffee, the hotdish served at funerals, the ten-o'clock whistle, the swipe of bread across the last bit of gravy on a plate, and the sharing of garden produce. Gumption seems a fitting title for a story that focuses on Albrecht, a man with a philosophy to 'Get out there and do things!' When his wife, Lorraine, dies of cancer after 48 years of marriage, Albrecht doesn't sit around feeling sorry for himself. Rather, he forges new friendships with men who have also lost their wives and they become 'The Gang,' making weekly dinner outings and even vacationing on a cruise ship. They learn to depend on each other for companionship and help as they grow older. They become family. This book offers an honest, and often humorous, look at the realities of growing old - the physical limitations, the closeness to death, the loss of independence. Berger grasps those concepts in her well-chosen words, in sentences like this: 'They piled out of the car a limb at a time, a gangly group with feed elevator caps, bodies hunched.' Into the mix of men, also comes a woman, Agnes Ziegenhagen, who plies Albrecht with her pickles and jam. Berger weaves her stories with the knack of a storyteller who speaks from the heart. Her uplifting book is a must-read for anyone entering the golden years, for the adult children of senior citizens and for anyone who interacts with the elderly. Ifs that good, that relevant, that moving. --Minnesota Moments Magazine, Spring 2011

Utterly and unexpectedly compelling for anyone worried about a widowed father living alone -- or perhaps if you are that widower, wondering exactly how to live without a wife who always made all of life's arrangements. Minneapolis author Faye Berger has in some ways written her father's memoir, having talked extensively with Russ Berger during the years after his wife, Lorraine, died. In those conversations, Berger learned about "the Gang," a group of fellow widowers in the small western Minnesota town of Morgan. They're mildly notorious, carpooling to area cafes and even taking cruises together. But the story also is about how Russ, since deceased, became the go-to guy to call when someone fell or needed a meal or just craved company. "Gumption" is about a support group for those who rarely get the attention: widowers of a certain age trying to figure out their new lives. Anyone from a small town will recognize the small hurdles of religion, occupation and finances they overcome, and a son or daughter from anywhere may take Russ' story as a sort of guideline for the next of life's turns. --Star Tribune

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