Review: The World of Pondside by Mary Helen Stefaniak

☆☆➹⁀☆ 4 stars☆➹⁀☆☆

About the Book:

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.



My Thoughts:

The World of Pondside took me by surprise.  The premise is interesting and unusual, and the author hooked me right away with the death in the first scenes of the book.  Was it murder or suicide?  That is what the police and the folks at Pondside would like to know.

The World of Pondside is a virtual reality game created by one of the residents at the Pondside Care Facility.   Interestingly, the author gives readers glimpses into not only several of the residents and employees at Pondside, but also of their personalized virtual reality. People find welcome release in The World of Pondside game as it allows them to feel as if they are in a time and place where they felt their best or most loved, etc. Since everyone loved the virtual reality game, it is a mystery as to who might have killed its creator and destroyed or absconded with the game. 

The author’s characterizations are compassionate and her depictions of overworked nurses and staff seemed very realistic.  Beyond the realistic range of emotions, the author embedded just the right amount of humor to take the edge off some of the tension.

As the story unfolds, readers not only learn of the Pondside residents, we get a very twisty, multifaceted tale. All those unexpected twists were fun, but I most loved the tender, thoughtful depiction of the nursing home residents.   The World of Pondside is a lovely character driven story with a bit of mystery sprinkled on top.


About the Author: Mary Helen Stefaniak is the prize-winning author of The Turk and My Mother, Self Storage and Other Stories, and The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia. A native of Milwaukee, Mary Helen divides her time between Iowa City, where she and her husband John live in a 160-year-old stagecoach inn they restored, and Omaha, where she is Professor Emerita of English and Creative Writing at Creighton University.

© Copyright 2022 Book Junkie Reviews. All rights reserved.

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