When Elsie Gormley leaves the Brisbane house in which she has lived for more than sixty years, Lucy Kiss and her family move in, eager to establish their new life. As they settle in, Lucy and her husband Ben struggle to navigate their transformation from adventurous lovers to new parents, taking comfort in memories of their vibrant past as they begin to unearth who their future selves might be. But the house has secrets of its own, and the rooms seem to share recollections of Elsie’s life with Lucy.
In her nearby nursing home, Elsie traces the span of her life—the moments she can’t bear to let go and the places to which she dreams of returning. Her beloved former house is at the heart of her memories of marriage, motherhood, love, and death, and the boundary between present and past becomes increasingly porous for both her and Lucy.
My Thoughts: Like a character in its own right, the small cottage in Brisbane was home to Elsie Gormley, her husband Clem, and her twins, Don and Elaine. After Elsie moved into a care facility, her grown children sold the house to Ben Carter, Lucy Kiss and their young son Tom.
A Hundred Small Lessons is an unfolding of their life stories, through alternating narratives. We visualize them in the past and the present, in a non-linear fashion, and occasionally, they almost seem to be in the same time/space spectrum, crossing paths in the old house as they experience significant moments.
Sometimes Lucy feels Elsie’s presence, almost as if the old woman has come to visit in the middle of the night. Mysterious things happen…like roses appearing from an unknown giver. Lucy believes that Elsie is there with her, possibly even speaking to her…but Ben dismisses these “happenings” as Lucy’s imagination.
I loved the image of characters connecting at various points in their journeys…and seemingly walking similar pathways, while experiencing their lives in different eras, from the 1940s to the present. A poignant story that also reminds us of the passage of time and the memories that sustain us. 4.5 stars.