“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
With help from Pondside Manor’s quirky, twentysomething kitchen worker Foster Kresowik, wheelchair-bound 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 dying wishes 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.
“This is a really wonderful, wonderfully funny book. I laughed more times than anyone could count. Nearly every sentence has a grin to it, or a touch of wit, or just something unexpected. The World of Pondside delivers what I have always looked for in novels but haven’t seen in years and years: the freshness and the lovely sentences and all the funny stuff. The joy of life always finds a way to shine through.” —Mike Magnuson, author of Lummox: The Evolution of a Man and The Right Man for the Job
“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
“There’s so much I love about this novel. It manages that rare of 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
Mary Helen Stefaniak is the prizewinning author of The Turk and My Mother and Self Storage and Other Stories. She lives in Omaha and Iowa City.