Once again proving that a zest for life doesn't necessarily diminish with age, 90-year-old Wilder (Out to Pasture; Over the Hill; Older but Wilder) returns to South Carolina's Fair Acres Retirement Home and her alter-ego Hattie McNair for more uplifting musings on the bittersweet complexities of aging. Like a merry Miss Marple, Hattie observes and comments on her fellow residents' travails with bright-eyed wit and clearheaded insight into the idiosyncrasies of human nature. Writing faithfully in her diary, Hattie spies humor and goodness all around her. A small boy finds redeeming friendship with a grieving widower, the residents' camaraderie lightens the burden of physical ailments and everyone has stories about the old South. While residents can't agree whether the "old days," with no air conditioning or washing machines, were better than modern times, with erring presidents and loosening morals, Hattie affirms that "laughing at tribulations seems much healthier than crying!" Despite degenerative eyesight, Hattie revels in everyday adventures, finding excitement even when the home is temporarily evacuated because of a nearby toxic spill. The book's warmest passages highlight the tender friendships and heartfelt compassion that turn age into wisdom, conveyed movingly when Hattie and her friends must decorate a Christmas tree with their memories. While Wilder's tone is refreshingly simple and straightforward, the plot is more anecdotal than plot-driven, and readers should overlook the scattered chronological order and enjoy the unsophisticated stories and hard-earned insights. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.