A story about aging. With time running short, these intrepid residents of Sunset Village in Florida continue to thirst for life and love.
The Sunset Gang is as lively, fun, and courageous a group as you’ll find anywhere this side of the Last Reward. The fact that you’ll find them at Sunset Village, a condominium retirement community in Florida – where an ambulance siren is the theme song and cycling at a stately pace is strenuous exercise – does not mean that they are ready to pack it all in. Not by a long shot.
Indeed, sex and romantic love keep Sunset Village bubbling with activity. If you were to walk down one of its well-tended paths, you might spot Jenny and Bill sitting on a bench, acting like young lovers, and never suspect that they are married – to other people! And at the pool, Max Bernstein, with an expertise that comes from five decades of skirt chasing, is singling out attractive widows.
But the true beating heart of Sunset Village is the love of family and friends. Widowed Molly Berkowitz learns that although her son and daughter may be failures in the eyes of the world, they are well worth bragging about, and Isaac Kramer begins to feel truly at home when the gray-haired boys down at the Laundromat start calling him by his old neighborhood nickname, “Itch.”
In America, where “old” is a dirty word, people over sixty-five are often shut out as if growing old were some kind of contagious disease. But you cannot shut the Sunset Gang out of your heart. If you let them in, they will teach you a lot about living-a subject on which, after all, they are the experts.
“Warmth, poignancy, humor and love fill the pages.” – The Jewish Post
“What goes on in the condominium for Jewish retirees you wouldn’t believe… But the author’s writing skill and his love for the old folds make it both believable and fascinating.” – Hadassah Magazine
“He writes about these people with so much insight, so much tenderness… never guilty of sentimentality… One admires Adler not merely for his fictional prowess but for having had the compassion, the wisdom to have seen diamonds where others had only seen coal.” – Howard Kissel, Women’s Wear Daily
“Warren Adler writes…with a compassionate eye and a shrewd pen.” – Free-Lance Star, Fredericksburg, VA
“Tender, amusing, compassionate tales.” – Publishers Weekly
“With the rich compassion of a Markfield, and a hint of Singer’s storytelling ease.” – Kirkus review
“A fresh, upbeat look at growing old.” – St. Louis Jewish Light
“Amusing, penetrating, and moving. It provides something to think about as it entertains.” – Journal-World, Lawrence, KA
“Zesty vignettes… touching stories of love, independence and courage.” – American Library Association Booklist
“Adler… had always been an alert observer of the realities of the world. Moreover, he had also been able to interpret them with understanding… A series of plausible, tender short stories. Adler is so adept at dialogue and plot that he readily convinces the reader…” – Lonnie Hudkins, Baltimore News-American
“These are touching, funny stories of the elderly.” – Arizona Daily Star
“Adler’s Sunset Gang sings of geriatric glory… Unforgettable.” – UCLA Daily Bruin
“The old will read The Sunset Gang with sheer delight, but their middle-aged children have much to learn from it.” – Columbus Dispatch
“Warren Adler has a magical touch. Adler’s method is refreshing. The Sunset Gang illuminates real life.” – South Bend Tribune
“A heartwarming book describes the joys and pains of old age… As exciting and interesting as the golden agers Adler describes.” – Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle
“Warren Adler has caught the feeling of Sunset Village… He observes with a discerning, compassionate eye the foibles, dreams, frustrations, clever schemings and the groovings of long habits of the residents. And in the telling of them he enlists responsive feelings in his readers. A funny book…” – The Houston Post
“Adler expresses (universal themes) with affection and amusement. Enjoyable.” – Library Journal
Place and golden agers provide the connective tissue for these 10 engaging short stories by the author of The Trans-Siberian Express. Sunset Village is a retirement community in Florida inhabited by older people who have left behind family, friends and past lives. Here the past is ever present in thought and in conversation, and the present consists of the minutiae of living, new friends, time-killing diversions and fending off the grim reaper, Bill Finkelstein and Jennie Goldfarb, married, but not to each other, find love, while Max Bernstein finds the condominiums happy hunting grounds for looking over attractive widows. In “The Angel of Mercy,” Mrs. Klugerman seems to work miraculous cures as she visits the ill, until she herself disappears. Isaac Kramer finds a home away from home in the community’s Laundromat, a male refuge in a female world. Tender, amusing compassionate tales about people “on the shelf in the eyes of the world,” but not in Adler’s view.
Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle
Bookshelf: The Sunset Gang Emphasizes Life’s Joys
Warren Adler’s fictional account of a Jewish retirement village in Florida is a heartwarming book describing the joys and pains of old age. But it is the joys that are emphasized in Adler’s novel – love, friendship and concern of one’s family – they are told with humor, mystery and romance. Surely, these septuagenarians are not ready to stop living or loving.
The recognizable characters in The Sunset Gang include Jenny and Bill, the “young lovers”; Mrs. Klugerman, “The Angel of Mercy” who spends all her time visiting the sick, bringing them bags of candy and loving concern; and Sophie Berger, who is determined not to have to go to “The Home” after breaking her hip.
The Sunset Gang is as exciting and interesting as the golden agers that Adler describes. Adler’s novel depicts old age as vibrant and filled with new opportunities for growth and love.
The Jewish “characters” in The Sunset Gang represent the gamut of Jewish older adults. Bernie, the retired Jewish cop, is determined to stage a demonstration where the Egyptian ambassador is vacationing, despite the charges that he’s too old. Bernie is not ready to give up. He feels that he will get involved in Jewish affairs no matter what his age.
Throughout the novel it is the Yiddish expressions that make the reader feel at home, with the Yentas and the Yiddishe Mammas who still worry about their grown children. The novel has that certain tam, that flavor of the Jewish personality.
Warren Adler’s novel shows the Jewish elderly in a light befitting their worth – with dignity, independence, and the will to continue living active, meaningful lives.
Love and passion, friendship and loneliness, and fear of the future, of change, and of death are universal themes that Adler expresses through the hopes and concerns of the somewhat stereotyped residents of Sunset Village, a Jewish retirement community in Florida. With affection and amusement, he details the lives of a group of people who are not yet ready to give up their hold on life of on life’s joys and problems. Enjoyable light reading.
The Daily Herald
Humorous tales of lively people in their golden years
“In six months, she’d be eighty. My God, eighty. Her mind was young. Her heart was young, she told herself.”
Talk to any senior citizen and chances are they’ll say the same thing as Sophie Berger, one of Warren Adler’s The Sunset Gang.
This book is, in essence, a series of short stories set in the Sunset Village condominiums, the common thread which holds them all together. The characters, residents of the retirement community in Florida, are Jewish but their experiences are universal.
There is a couple who find a common bond in reviving the Yiddish language of their childhood, fall in love and must confront their families with their romance.
There is Isaac Kramer, long known as “Itch” who, by losing his nickname in retirement, has lost his identity and purpose in life as well. Both are restored to him at the local Laundromat.
Harold Weintraub’s father really didn’t approve of Harold’s live-in girlfriend. When she becomes pregnant and Harold makes an unannounced visit to his father, the Weintraubs find they have a basis for understanding each other.
Seymour Shapiro, a mystery book fan, plays detective in a sad, but perhaps not unusual, story about the systematic disappearance of food from the Shapiro kitchen.
Bernie Bromberg harbors a lifelong conviction that everyone hates Jews and starts a chapter of the Jewish Defense League to picket an Arab meeting in Miami.
An “Angel of Mercy” visits the sick, the bachelor Max Bernstein is still chasing skirts, Sophie Berger’s family threatens to put her in a nursing home, and two childhood sweethearts are reunited.
Members of the “Sunset Gang” are sharply drawn characters, very real individuals with their own feelings and foibles, their own wants and needs. Their experiences are often humorous, sometimes sad, sometimes pathetic but always true to life.
Adler writes in an easily readable style, sprinkling his narrative with a keen sense of Jewish ethnicity and language. His fictionalized account of the ‘golden years’ covers the full range of human emotions and human relationships. A particularly compelling episode deals with “successful children” and their reactions to the loneliness of aging parents.
The Sunset Gang is Warren Adler’s fourth book. A Washington DC public relations and advertising man, he has given us an entertaining, thought-provoking treatise about senior citizens and a chance to re-examine some tired old clichés about aging.
Lawrence Journal World
A chronicle of golden years
Loneliness, fear, lust and laughter among the retired set – that’s what Warren Adler has concocted in The Sunset Gang.
His book is a collection of short stories, vignettes about particular characters – and characters they are, no doubt – in a Florida retirement village.
These are tales about people coming to grips with themselves in the peculiar circumstances retirement brings. The adjustments called for are many: Absence from familiar people. Absence from jobs. Being ignored by family. Getting sick and not being able to cope with the illness and not having anyone to assist. Having an affair.
Although the characters are crafted to the author’s specifications and share the common bonds he designs, the plights and circumstances seem to reflect problems of a more general nature and wider impact than the limited world of his worlds.
The book is amusing, penetrating and moving. It provides something to think about as it entertains.
UCLA Daily Bruin by Alisa M. Weisman
Adler’s ‘Sunset Gang’ sings of geriatric glory
Old people in America are often ignored by the media, or characterized as uninteresting, useless remnants when brought to our attention. Warren Adler contends that people can retain freshness, warmth, intelligence, humor and love in spite of the aging process in The Sunset Gang.
The Sunset Gang, dedicated to a “generation, unsung but glorious,” is a collection of short stories about the inhabitants of a Jewish retirement community in Miami: Sunset Village, yenta capital of the world. “Sunset Village is the world of the yentas,” one character says. “The yentas control it. They own it. It was created for them. Finally they have realized their life dream about having a place where the yenta is queen.”
The inhabitants of this world, all retired, struggle along to fill idle days after years of drudgery: swimming, sunning, playing cards, and dreaming.
But they are fully fleshed, three-dimensional human beings; given to complaining at times, but these people complain about their problems the way younger people brag about drinking and dallying: “Mrs. Shinsky was a woman of great courage and energy whose loquaciousness was a legend in itself. Compulsively, every day, when she was not attending to Max, she would sit next to the telephone and call a long list of friends to whom she would outline the minutest details of Max’s illness There seemed to be an element of salesmanship about these calls, as if she were trying to sell her friends on the proposition that her troubles far exceeded those of anyone else.”
Perhaps the most poignant tale in The Sunset Gang is “The Home,” the story of a woman’s pride in the face of creeping debility. While Sophie Berger lies in bed with a broken hip, her three children in the next room discuss putting her in an old age home. Proud and independent, Sophie pulls herself out of bed, and using a walker, walks into the other room to show she can still take care of herself. Adler throws in a couple of passionate love stories, as well. Fiery, yet tasteful, the tales convey the message that people continue to love and lust as long as they live.
This gang will remain with us long after we’ve read the book. Their humor and courage in the face of societies ostracism and nature’s devastation make them unforgettable.
Warren Adler’s beautiful collection of stories, The Sunset Gang is dedicated “To my mother and father and their generation, unsung but glorious.” Adler’s stories are about older people living in a retirement community in Florida – he writes about these people with so much insight, so much tenderness, he makes you forget they are the same people you’ve been reading about for decades, who reached their literary apotheosis in Sophie Portnoy.
For the last few decades these people have been the villains in American Jewish fiction – damned for their vulgarity, for their pleasure in worldly success, but most of all for their having placed such enormous pressure on their children to realize their own ambitions. By the time they have reached Adler’s Sunset Village, the struggles are over and not necessarily won, which gives their lives certain poignancy.
Apart from the sympathy with which he treats his characters, Adler’s fiction is remarkable for its range. He is never guilty of the sentimentality one would expect in a favorable treatment of older people. Moreover, he varies his tone superbly to suit the material – one of the stories parodies detective novels by placing the conventions of genre in the homely context of the condominium for the elderly; another does astonishing job of creating erotic tension around a couple who have not made love in more than 50 years; another, about an old woman who visits her ill neighbors, has a mythic quality to it without sacrificing a shred of realism.
One admires Adler not merely for his fictional prowess but for having had the compassion, the wisdom to have seen diamonds where others had only seen coal.
Free Lance Star
With a compassionate eye and a shrewd pen, Warren Adler writes in The Sunset Gang a series of sketches on a subject which needs compassion and is seldom the material for lighthearted prose: the aging process.
Sunset Gang tells of a group of men and women living in a Jewish retirement condominium, “Sunset Village” in Florida. The humor is distinctly Jewish, broad and self-conscious, the characters, gallant for the most part. They make bright each shining hour, until they unwillingly will be dragged off to a nursing home or more definitely carried away on an even longer journey.
What goes on in the condominium for Jewish retirees you wouldn’t believe, and we can’t tell you because this is what used to be called a family magazine. But the author’s writing skill and his love for the old folks makes it both believable and fascinating. We recommend it for all ages.
Like Tove Jansson’s somber Sun City (1976), these far sunnier but no less searching Florida-retirement-community portraits settle in on the curious, fevered vitality of old people. Sunset Gardens, muses one middle-aged son, burdened with the guild which blur’s children’s visits, is “merely a dumping ground for aged Jewish parents of a certain working class strata…the Jews who never really made it big.” Superficially, the place is busy, a humming society paced by the yentas, the gossipers and the tile clickers. Yet there is a shared knowledge which surfaces occasionally in jokes about the “Anthem of Death” when the ambulance whines by, in the heart-stopping anxieties of the night, and in fanciful, last ditch swerves: Greenberg: “sold insurance, came home, watched television, slept on the couch. That was his whole life. Now he’s a bird watcher. Everyday he gets up at five to watch the birds,” observes a presiding yenta. But Adler’s old people, humiliated by purposelessness, haunted by infirmity, can clap hands and sing. A lonely ex-cleaning storeowner finds the shadow of his hangout youth’s old gang in the laundry room. There are lovers: one attuned pair face down in a roomful of sour spouses and children; two class y sports – one with five husbands, the other a beach Romeo – join talents. Moments of twilight recognition: a father and son rediscover their love; one woman’s children may be “failures” in life but not in generous, open-hearted regard for their mother – a rarity in Sunset Gardens. And, in the last story, a woman resists a “home” with extraordinary will and courage. With the rich compassion of a Markfield and a hint of Singer’s story-telling ease, the recently very active Adler seems to be on his way.
Wall Street Journal by Dorothy Rabinowitz
Life and Love in the Golden Years
Producer Linda Lavin introduces The Sunset Gang – a trilogy about life in a retirement village – with heartfelt observations about the dignity of old age and how it’s about time we recognized the vitality and variety of the lives the elderly are capable of living.
All this is enough to make our hearts sink. It takes, fortunately, only a minute or so of The Sunset Gang to lift them – and dispel fears that we are about to be involved here in yet another of television’s ventures into consciousness-raising. These three “American Playhouse” stories (based on a work by Warren Adler) are in fact pure drama-moving, comic, and most of all, sharply observed. For this, much thanks to Ronald Ribman, who adapted them for TV, directors Calvin Skaggs and Stan Drazan.
“The Detective,” which airs Friday, is the second in the series (the first will already have aired by the time this appears) and is set, like the others, in a fictional retirement community of the Jewish elderly in Florida, called, pointedly, “Sunset Village.” They may be in the last years of life, but these people are very busy. Everyone has a hobby or is looking for one. Seymour, a former schoolteacher, is perfectly happy with his hobby – reading – but Seymour’s wife (Anne Meara) is not. She has the interesting view that a hobby is something that should promote socializing-something that Seymour (Jerry Stiller) seems little inclined to do.
Seymour’s quietly annihilating looks, in response to this argument, and the sight of the hobbies around him, tell volumes. Another husband-cut loose while his wife plays cards-wanders over to disturb Seymour’s reading with babble, and to confess that he himself has never had time to develop a hobby. He is like a lot of others here, people who have toiled at making a living all their lives and are now floundering a bit in the new social world of activities and hobbymania. The weight of leisure here can be heavy, a lot of work, but it is equally clear that the inhabitants of this retirees’ world enjoy themselves. They have the sun, the water, companions, activities. Some things they like, some they don’t: It is life.
Mr. Stiller has never had a better role than this – the crusty former teacher with two master’s degrees and a wicked tongue. What a stunning study Mr. Stiller’s face is as Seymour, captive listener to the gossip floating around and about him as he tries to read-gossip that intrigues and repels him. Seymour is smart enough to recognize that there are many worse things that can befall a man than retirement to this sunny place, and the time to read all the mystery books he wants. He becomes something of a detective himself when he realizes, as do other friends in their circle, that someone is systematically stealing food from their refrigerators-a can of tuna fish here, a honey cake there. Thereby hangs this mystery, whose general drift is clear early on but whose denouement comes, nevertheless, with striking power, no small thanks to Ms. Meara.
The real force in this work, however, is this assortment of recognizable people in their 70s and 80s – husbands, wives, widowers, and widows as they actually look rather than as, “Golden Girls,” say, packages them. These faces are seemed, the flesh slack, fat is fat. What a relief that is, particularly as regards a subject about which there has been so much evasion, idealized fantasy and plain lying.
The stories, of course, have a point of view and mean to propagate certain values and attitudes. But thanks be to God, as they might say at Sunset Village, this trilogy emerges as a picture rather than a lecture. The final story, “The Home,” stars Uta Hagen as a thoroughly independent woman of 80 beset – as many of these elderly seem to be – by the unwanted attentions of adult children. If anything about these characters seems dubious it is the children they reared: How is it possible that parents like these, lively sane people with an appetite for life, could have produced such a miserable lot of constricted children. Still, much about this picture of the children rings true in “The Home,” particularly the wranglings over who will take care of mother if she happens to get hurt or fall down-as she ultimately does. Within a trice, the children are gathered together in secret, to talk about putting her in a home – the fate she most dreads.
It isn’t – the script makes clear – that these middle-aged children don’t care for their parent. They have, after all, pestered her with daily phone calls for years, to find out if anything has happened to her-yet. Answering one of those calls is how she managed to slip in the shower stall and break her hip in the first place. What seems to be troubling these children is a mother of 80 who still seems to be going on with her life, a person in her own house, far away from theirs. It is clearly a disconcerting state of affairs for these children, who would feel a lot more comfortable if their mother’s life were finally settled somewhere into a recognizable old age.
With their anxious queries and expectations, they nudge her into infirmity. Ms. Hagen is altogether moving as the resistant who will not be nudged, a woman who draws sustenance from the memories of youthful ardor, the face of her young husband.
For someone in Sunset Village, the fires of passion still burn bright. People in their 70s fall madly in love. In the story already aired, a man trapped in a lifeless marriage falls head over heels for another Sunset Villager, a woman similarly trapped, and asks, “Did you ever think you would fall in love again?” The passion in this query is electrifying. That is because it is about falling in love, that most profound act of self-confidence-rather than about sex and related technicalities, which, after all, Dr. Ruth and colleagues have long been assuring us goes on for a long time.
by Ray Loynd
Sunset Gang Ripens With Age
Growing old has never been in fashion in a society that serves youth. Nowhere is this more evident than in movies and television, where the aged are usually irascible or endearing supporting characters who bear little resemblance to real people.
So what a television week this is turning out to be for the celebration of characters on fixed incomes. Earlier in the week came a spellbinding performance by Olympia Dukakis as an 80-ish actress in “The Last Act Is a Solo” on A&E, and beginning tonight, and continuing for the next two Friday nights on “American Playhouse,” The Sunset Gang realistically and delightfully animates life in a southern Florida retirement village.
The trilogy is adapted from a 1976 anthology of nine short stories by Warren Adler (The War of the Roses), whose fictional Sunset Village here is based on his own parents’ retirement ghetto-condo in the real life Century Village in West Palm Beach. The three hour-long shows feature different casts and stories that are all connected by the setting, a manicured bayside retirement community.
The production’s backdrop – the card games, the schmoozing, the bike runs, the torpor, the spotless, glazed apartments and orange trees – is a sublime visual footnote that the alternating directors, Calvin Skaggs and Tony Drazan, catch with a piquant, ironic touch.
The themes are inter-related. These retirees are not rich by any means. They’re bookkeepers and government workers and school-teachers who live on pensions, but they do live a whole lot better than most people (aging or otherwise). They are not necessarily lovable retirees, and they’re not cute or merely ailing. They are success stories and a shot in the arm for a growing group of people.
One of the characters (Harold Gould) in tonight’s opening episode has the honesty to admit that he doesn’t even like his own children, let alone love them. “Where’s it written you have to love your children?” That kind of candor underscores the felicitous writing by adaptor Ron Ribman.
There’s humor and fireworks here, too. Tonight’s show, “Yiddish,” is the most dramatically daring. Gould plays a husband in his 70’s, bored with his vulgar spouse (a wonderful performance by Doris Roberts), who falls in love with a married retiree (the dreamy, soft smiled Tresa Hughes). Their love affair is propelled by their common bond of Yiddish (which they frequently speak and which is subtitled).
Next week’s show, “The Detective,” is lower key but poignant, co-starring a wryly taciturn Jerry Stiller and a sociable gadfly of a wife played by Anne Meara.
The final episode, “Home,” features a sterling, rigorous portrayal by veteran actress Uta Hagen as a strong-willed widow who breaks a hip and whose real battle is with her brood of wrangling children.
The ambiance is marginally Jewish in all three yarns but the production’s strength is that the age is dramatized here as the great leveler, ultimately flattening out all superficial differences.
New York Jewish Week by Paul Kresh
Television trilogy depicts retirement-village ‘tsourists’
Warren Adler, known best as the author of the best-selling novel The War of the Roses, vividly remembers visiting his parents at Century Village, the retirement community in West Palm Beach, Fla.
“Later I wrote 18 stories about the place, and nine of them were published by Viking in a book called The Sunset Gang. The reviews were ecstatic but that book never made much money.
“Then Linda Lavin, who used to visit her 92-year-old father in Florida, read the stories, loved them, went to American Playhouse and convinced them to produce a three-part series based on them. That’s how ‘The Sunset Gang’ became a public television series.”
A fascinating series it is, funny and at the same time affecting. There’s much to be read between the lines about how it really is to be elderly and Jewish in a Florida retirement village, far from the life and the world you knew.
The stories’ characters are immigrants from the shtetls of Eastern Europe, whose odysseys have somehow brought them in old age from Brooklyn to this kind of mock country-club life. The TV series concentrates on their latter-day experiences in Sunset Village.
The first of the three self-contained episodes, “Yiddish,” is undoubtedly also the first American Playhouse drama with passages of Yiddish dialogue, supplemented by English subtitles. It tells the charming and frequently funny, although equally touching and harrowing, tale of two senior citizens, both married to others, who fall in love and dare to disturb the universe by acting on their instincts.
What brings this couple, played insightfully by Harold Gould and Tres Hughes, into the friendship that shakes up their world is their mutual love of the Yiddish language, which they discover when they enroll for a course at the Sunset Village Yiddish Club.
After they fall in love and announce their intentions of divorcing their longtime spouses (with Doris Roberts perfect as the other, all-too-down-to-earth wife), the shock waves culminate in the arrival of their relatives to thwart their romantic plans. This leads to a series of entirely convincing family quarrels and a romantically satisfying resolution.
The episode, by turns pathetic, comic, and elegiac, is superbly acted and knowingly directed by Calvin Skaggs.
Stan Drazan directed the second episode, “The Detective,” a somewhat flimsier construction about a series of mysterious thefts from the larders of a group of bridge-playing Sunset Village neighbors. They’re baffled by the way food has started disappearing from their homes.
The denouement, however, does lend a thoughtful element to this otherwise disappointingly weightless effort. As the key couple in the tale, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara turn in a pair of amusing and authentic portraits. And here, too, Adler has again captured the quirks and vanities of his characters with keen observation tempered by affection, all faithfully reflected in Ribman’s script.
The last of the trilogy to be shown – “The Home” – is the best. It is a serio-comic treatment of a situation with which vast numbers of viewers will readily identify: what to do with a fiercely independent mother after she breaks a hip and is no longer able to live alone and care for herself.
It seems to be the practice nowadays to hire non-Jewish actresses to play Jewish matriarchs (Jessica Tandy, for example, in “Driving Miss Daisy,” Joan Plowright in “Avalon” and Irene Worth in “Lost in Yonkers.”) So this role has gone to German-born, Lutheran-raised Uta Hagen, one of the theater’s most versatile stars and co-founder with Herbert Berghof of their famous acting studio.
As the mother who must convince her three adult children that she doesn’t have to be put in a nursing home, she turns in a moving and memorable performance. The climax of the drama, again resourcefully directed by Skaggs, hinges on a curious and seemingly trivial question: will this courageous woman, who has faced so much and asks so little of everyone, be able to prove that she can go to the bathroom by herself? The answer brings The Sunset Gang trilogy to a poignant close.’
“I wrote these stories mostly for myself, never dreaming they would have the staying power for such international exposure,” Adler said. “Also, I thought they would be too ethnic for a general audience. Obviously, I was wrong.
“Apparently some universal gong has been sounded in them, as they deal with eternal glories of life, even at an advanced age.”
That gong sounds loud and clear in this three-part unflinching yet benign look at growing old in a Florida commune.
Zesty vignettes about residents of a Florida retirement complex, where heartstrings still vibrate and dreams come true. The touching stories of love, independence, and courage depict a community in which emotions still thrive in the sunset years. Adler is also the author of The Henderson Equation.
The Jewish Post by Martin Panzer
Warren Adler dedicates his nine short stories to “My mother and father and their generation, unsung and glorious.” No longer unsung, Warren, but ever glorious. Warmth, poignancy, humor and love fill the pages. I could not have dreamed that the closing words of the final story, “The flush of the toilet when it came sounded like music to her ears,” would be of the sort that would leave me with a tear in my eye, a catch in my throat and a smile on my lips. But they were.
I was tempted to write that each story is better than the preceding one, but that would mean that the last story was eight times as good as the first (figure the arithmetic for yourself), but it is true that a couple of them are better than all the rest, while all of them are at least very good. The first story, which I found the most delightful, tells of a love story that grows up in a Yiddish class between an elderly man and an elderly woman, each married to elderly spouses. The denouement, at which the husband of one and the wife of the other hold a meeting with their respective spouses and their married children and their respective spouses, is a crashing and wonderful last hurrah for the eternal youth of the chronologically old. A faintly jarring note was the fact that in a combine family of a dozen, only the two lovers understood Yiddish, a less-than-likely coincidence in view of the nature of some of the others. But that’s a mere nit-pick.
The characters in all the stories, though unrelated, constitute the Sunset gang, residents of Sunset Village, a Florida condominium retirement village – and a lustier gang you couldn’t hope to meet, from the retired New York City cop who holds a one-man demonstration against an Egyptian Ambassador (in a fairly long story about his lifelong experience with anti-Semitism which alone would have made the reading of this book worthwhile) to the aging sexpot who, after 45 years of marriage to the wrong man, finds her once illicit lover in Sunset Village and… oh, read it yourself. Read all nine of the stories. You won’t regret it.
The Milwaukee Journal by Susan Rosenberg
They Listen for a Siren
In Sunset Village you will find Morris Weintraub, a widower, living with Ida Schwartzman, a widow, without the sanction of marriage so they can collect more Social Security. Then there’s Harriet Feldman, who steals food from her friends because pride prevents her from going on welfare. And Bill Finkelstein and Jennie Goldfarb who, after many decades of marriage, decide to divorce their spouses and marry. Though past 65, they want a future together.
These zany, sometimes sad, always lovable old timers are part of Warren Adler’s Sunset Gang, which provides a rare glimpse into the lives of segment of our population too often ignored by society.
This readable collection of short stories centers around a group of Jewish Golden Agers living in a Florida condominium retirement community. Their Judaism simply gives them a common denominator – a basis for communication – and a feeling of camaraderie. Any other ethnic group aware of its heritage would share these traits.
They have not given up on life but are simply trying to live it to the fullest, as if each day were their last. Indeed, they’re always aware of the ambulance siren’s sound, which frequently punctuates their community. They call it the Sunset Village anthem.
South Bend Tribune, South Bend, Indiana by Carol L. Schaal
Alive in their wrinkled bodies: Stories illuminate lives of Jews in Florida retirement village
Yentes, alte cockers and other aging Jews are the delightful inhabitants of Sunset Village, a condominium retirement village in Florida.
The Sunset Gang uses episodes peculiar to first and second generation Jews in America as background. The joys of speaking Yiddish, the impotent anger over continuing world-wide persecution, and the closeness of a neighborhood gang rejected by their peers are among the experiences brought by the retirees to their final home.
But Warren Adler has a magical touch. He stresses the Jewishness of his people and at the same time transcends it. The Sunset Gang is rich in a common background, but it speaks to everyone.
What it speaks about is aging and the elderly. And Adler’s method is refreshing. Through a series of tragicomedic events he tenderly shows what most Americans seem determined to ignore – that the elderly are just as vibrant and alive in their wrinkled bodies as any younger group.
Adler’s magic again is apparent in his handling of this theme. A deliberate focus on the bodily feebleness, the seeming lack of usefulness to society of the Sunset Gang sharpens the point about their essential human essence.
Each chapter is a complete story. “Itch” is especially appealing. It delineates a couple’s changing relationship after the husband retires and the husband’s need for acceptance in the male world. The book ends with “The Home” – surely one of the most sensitive stories every written about the fear of being sent to a nursing home. Without coyness of vulgarity, Adler presents the dilemma – how can Sophie live alone when she needs help to go to the toilet? Sophie’s story is one of courage, where a toilet’s flush is the sound of victory.
Not all older people are sick, senile or helpless. The Gray Panthers are growling about it. Adler, at age 50, writes fiction about it. Like good fiction, The Sunset Gang illuminates real life.