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Home Front: The Wilder Side of Westminster Canterbury

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Empty whiskey bottles that mysteriously materialize on a hall table. Fruit-theft riots. Indignant speeches about inferior toilet paper.

Who would ever suspect that life at Westminster Canterbury was fraught with so much drama?

There are surprises aplenty in "Bloom Where You Are Planted," a lively epistolary novel about life in retirement communities written by two residents of Westminster, Dottie Boehm and Martha Pritchard.

Encouraged by writing teacher Patricia Hass, an editor at Alfred A. Knopf, Boehm and Pritchard assumed the identities of Maizie and Lena, two lifelong (though bickering) friends who move into separate communities.

They began writing letters to each other about their experiences moving in, meeting the residents and adjusting to being thought "old." Some are sobering and some are hilarious: "I'll tell you about another shock. I looked at myself as I passed a mirror and I was leading with my head as I walked by. I looked like a rooster on the go," confesses the horrified Maizie.

On Hass' advice, Boehm, 85, and Pritchard, 86, self-published their book shortly before Thanksgiving. "Published might be a pretty big word for it," says Boehm; yet so far they've sold more than 500 copies, with all proceeds going to the Westminster Canterbury Richmond Foundation. The books are available from Boehm and also at Hampton House Gifts and various hospitals around town.

Though "Bloom" is ostensibly a work of fiction, Boehm says, "all of the stories are real-life, until the end." Thus far, however, no one at Westminster Canterbury has owned up to being the leaver of the whiskey bottles.

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