In a game of life or death, the seniors at Pondside Manor risk it all.
With help from Pondside Manor’s quirky, twentysomething kitchen worker Foster Kresowik, resident Robert Kallman creates The World of Pondside, a video game that delights the nursing home’s residents by allowing them to virtually relive blissful moments from days long past—or even create new ones.
One-legged Duane Lotspeich is overjoyed when he can dance the tango again. Octogenarian Laverne Slatchek cheers on her favorite baseball team from the stands at Candlestick Park with her beloved husband—who died years ago. Even the overwhelmed Pondside administrator escapes her job by logging into a much more luxurious virtual world.
Robert’s game enlivens the halls of Pondside Manor, but chaos ensues when he is found dead, submerged in the pond, still strapped into his wheelchair. If any resident witnessed his death, they’re not telling—either covering up or, quite possibly, forgetting. And it’s far from clear to anyone—including the police—if the death of this brilliant man, who suffered from ALS, was suicide or murder.
When Robert’s video game goes dark, its players grow desperate. The task of getting it back online falls to young Foster, who enlists help from a raucous group of residents and staff. Their pursuit—virtual and real—has unintended consequences, uncovering both criminal activities and the secret plans of Foster’s friend Robert. From Pondside Manor, this unlikely bunch of gamers embarks upon an astonishing journey—blissful, treacherous, and unforgettable.
Packed with sharp wit and compassion, Mary Helen Stefaniak has written a rousing, perceptive, and utterly original novel.
“There’s so much I love about this novel. It manages that rare feat of being many things at once: funny, endearing, heartbreaking, suspenseful, hopeful, and tragic. Welcome to the world of Pondside Manor nursing home. A real gem of a book that I couldn’t put down.” —Willy Vlautin, author of The Night Always Comes and Lean on Pete
“Funny, heartbreaking, and suspenseful, readers will inhale this smart thriller in one sitting.” —Amazon Book Review
“I devoured The World of Pondside, cover to cover. There was really no way to stop. A mystery pulls us in and carries us while Stefaniak turns us this way and that, peeling back layers, giving us a view of life in a nursing home that we’ve never seen this close, this personally. Immediately engaging and perfectly phrased in Mary Helen Stefaniak’s consummately comic voice, this novel will shake you to your core. There is no turning back once you’ve opened the cover. It’s a wonderful book.” —Pete Fromm, author of A Job You Mostly Won’t Know How to Do and If Not for This
“Stefaniak infuses an often forbidding and depressing environment with joy and dignity in this Agatha Christie–esque cyber caper.” —Booklist
“With infinite compassion and great good humor, Mary Helen Stefaniak takes us on a wild, suspenseful ride through a world most of us normally shy away from. A high-tech thriller set in a nursing home, The World of Pondside will cause you to rethink everything you thought you knew about old people and those who care for them. Deeply moving, as heart-poundingly suspenseful as the best video games … and just plain fun.” —Eileen Pollack, author of The Professor of Immortality
Mary Helen Stefaniak’s debut novel, The Turk and My Mother, was named a Favorite Book of 2004 by the Chicago Tribune. The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction. Both novels were recognized by the Wisconsin Library Association for Outstanding Literary Achievement. She is Professor Emerita of English and Creative Writing at Creighton University in Omaha and teaches in Pacific University’s MFA in Writing program. She and her husband live in Iowa City, in a 165-year-old stagecoach inn they restored.
George Newbern is an Earphones Award–winning narrator and a television and film actor best known for his roles as Brian MacKenzie in Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride Part II, as well as Danny in Friends. As a voice actor, he is notable for his role as Superman on the Cartoon Newtork series Static Shock, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited. He has guest starred on many television series, including Scandal, The Mentalist, Private Practice, CSI: Miami, and Numb3rs. He holds a BA in theater arts from Northwestern University.