Off the Common Books, 2016
Three women who’ve turned 70 look around to find time short. How to spend these years? Nikki chops the days that remain into millions of minutes, Chessa gets a dog and Pru downsizes to a condo—only to discover that with the loss of so much of what was familiar even her own children begin to look a bit strange.
“If the themes in this slim book (111 pages) can be poignant and downbeat, they are lifted by plenty of wry humor and elegant, crystalline writing…. In the end, Goodnight, Ladies offers a moving meditation on memory and loss, while also staring down the realities of aging in a matter-of-fact way. As Kotker writes, ‘Death seems so impossible to the young. To the old it’s as common as spent tea bags.’”
—Steve Pfarrer in Hampshire Life, Daily Hampshire Gazette
Their husbands have died, their children are grown, and Chessa, Nikki and Pru are adjusting to life alone with humor, frustration, a little sorrow, but mostly gutsy resilience…. Beautifully comic.
—Trish Craypo, The Greenfield Recorder.
I love these Ladies, and I thanked every chapter of this novella for its intelligence, its dry wit, its dilemmas and victories, and for beautiful sentences that shine without preening. Truly, a pleasure.
—Elinor Lipman, author of The Inn at Lake Devine
A haunting novella of linked stories, Goodnight Ladies illuminates
the anguish of aging, the solace of memories, and the harrowing
business of living alone. Her characters are spot-on believable and
full of a just-bearable pathos.
—Anita Shreve, author of Stella Bain
Warm, witty, and wise. The overlapping stories of three women—three intelligent human beings—confronting, each in her own way, the inexorable approach of old age. I love this book.
—Nahma Sandrow, librettist, Enemies, A Love Story
Time to Live
By SARA THURBER MARSHALL
Though some say 70 is the new 60, turning that age can often make people reflect on the stage of life they have reached. In the novella Goodnight, Ladies by Zane Hickcox Kotker ’56, we meet three women going through that process. In the opening chapters, we see how each one is dealing with the new decade; Nikki feels that if she just counts time by minutes, her time remaining will be like a “cosmic phone card of unspent millions”; Pru has reluctantly decided to move from a townhouse to a condo in her retirement community, but feels it’s where she’ll go to die; Chessa gets a rescue dog for company and names him after her college boyfriend. What these friends have in common is that they are all widows who have watched someone they love die. And moving on is difficult, lonely, and full of question.
Kotker weaves the stories of these three women with beautifully crafted, witty, and wry prose, and we are easily drawn into their poignant dilemmas, whether it’s trying out Match.com, or discovering a newfound friend dead in her bathroom. By age 70, life lived and depth of memories stretch a long way into the past and the future is only uncertainty, except for the knowledge that death awaits. With wisdom and courage, each of these women marches forward with a plan. Kotker deftly captures the essence of this stage of life, when time can become the enemy if you let it, or it can be a precious commodity to be savored.