Visiting Miss Pierce

Derby, Pat

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Annotated by:
Taylor, Nancy
  • Date of entry: Jan-28-2004


High-school freshman Barry Wilson enrolls in Bay Area Social Concerns and must visit 83-year-old Miss Pierce at Cherry Garden Convalescent Hospital. Barry, short, shy, and miserable at his first visit, thinks of pictures of mummies he's seen in National Geographic; Miss Pierce thinks he's somebody named Willie.

But as Miss Pierce talks about her brother Willie and her childhood as a cripple, Barry gets interested. The story isn't a happy one, and Barry, himself adopted, identifies with Willie's abandoned child and becomes angry with the world until he comes to realize how important he is to his parents.


Although Barry at first found the nursing home had "a funny smell, a sort of sharp, too-much-bleach-or-something smell, and over that there was this musty, dirty-rag odor that made me want to gag" (19) and although he had found some of the residents strange, he eventually looks forward to visiting Alice Pierce in order to hear the end of Willie's story. Barry's being adopted is not woven into the story carefully, but his fascination with Miss Pierce's stories is believable.

By the end of the novel, several of the kids in Barry's class who've been visiting people in the nursing home have a party for them. Barry states that he guesses he'd gotten used to the place "because it didn't look as terrible as it had the first time I saw it. The main room was really just a large, old, untidy family room, and the old people weren't just old clothes and wheelchairs. They were all different and some of them were nice and fun to be with." (128)


Farrar, Straus, Giroux

Place Published

New York



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