GROUP HOME by Peter Joseph Swanson

Group HomeIn this book by prolific author Peter Joseph Swanson,  we follow a group of staff at a residence for 42 developmentally disabled women, set in the 90s in ummm Minneapolis, I think.  (I really need an upgrade on my Memory Card.  That’s because I suffer from CRS syndrome.  Can’t Remember Sh*t.)

The residence is in an old convent building and is run by the Church.  It is headed by a woman who stays in her office, sees a therapist regularly, and leaves the day to day matters are to the staff to take care of.

The bones of the story revolve around the incident of one of the residents having tumbled to her death from an upper floor window, and we never do really find out weather it was an accident,  suicide or murder, but we suspect accident.

The motley staff each have their own secrets, and we get little snippets into their lives as they try to manage on very low wages and lots of hard work.  They are portrayed as caring, empathetic folks who see their charges as people.  They have the usual gripes of having to write everything up, and working for the various ‘goals’ set for each resident, such as exercise goal, teeth cleaning goal.  They speak of the women so kindly and so patiently that it makes us forget the nasty stuff we read about in the papers and on line of abuse of patients and clients in care situations.

Because of their terribly low salaries, they get involved with trying to form a union,  and just as things begin to come to a head, the Diocese closes the residence, because the care of the developmentally disabled is moving away from large group institutional situations to smaller 5 person group homes.

It is a quiet, gentle book, written with grace and charm.   Put it on your TBR list for that day when you need a little injection of humanity into your psyche.


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