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A HUNDRED SMALL LESSONS: A Novel ~Ashley Hay

Monday, December 4th, 2017

A HUNDRED SMALL LESSONS is set in Brisbane, Australia and it is a combination of words that are at once poetic, descriptive, psychological and commanding and they draw the reader into a wonderful story, which holds the mind and demands attention – softly.  The main character truly is a house and it tells the tale of the two women who have lived there and their lives.

Elsie Gormley was the first resident of the little house with the huge backyard that touched a swamp and a park.  She was newly married and was delighted with her house and her husband.  She was the mother of Don and Elaine, twins.  Elsie loved her role as a mother and took it very seriously not without some worry and stress but she felt called and safe in that task.  She also had quite a relationship with the birds that came to her feeder and felt they were omens of good.  Her partner was a good man and took care of the yard, the house, and wallpapered every room with a different paper.

Lucy Kiss, her toddler Tom and her husband Ben have just purchased their first house after travelling for years.  For Ben it is coming home and he remembers being with his single mother in Brisbane and how hard it must have been for her and how terrific she was as a “mum”.  As he travels he worries about Lucy and her beautiful parenting and then her irritations.  Lucy is new here and has no friends yet and is isolated in her new house.  She is comfortable with being a mother and yet she is trying to hold on to her “self” in this new circumstance and situation.  She has mother worries and sometimes does not feel safe.  She thinks about Elsie a great deal.

Elsie has had a stroke and is confused so her children pack her up and move her to an apartment in assisted living.  Her story is the most complete as it weaves through Lucy’s in the house.   Lucy and Ben are busy planting trees in her backyard, lots of trees; Clem would not have liked this at all.

Birds and water play the game of connective tissue in this well written story.  If you have the opportunity to curl up and just savor and enjoy this read, I would put it very high up on your reading list.  A HUNDRED SMALL LESSONS is a top of the line read.

Ashley Hay uses her “lyrical prose, poetic dialogue, and stunning imagery” (RT magazine) to weave an intricate, bighearted story of what it is to be human. (TLC Book Tours)

About Ashley Hay

Ashley Hay is the internationally acclaimed author of the novels The Body in the Clouds and The Railwayman’s Wife, which was honored with the Colin Roderick Award by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies and longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the most prestigious literary prize in Australia, among numerous other accolades. She has also written four nonfiction books. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.

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A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD: A Novel ~Anne Tyler

Monday, November 30th, 2015

Anne Tyler won the Pulitzer Prize a few years ago and I have been a fan of her work since I read SAINT MAYBE .  When I heard that A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD was nominated for a Man Booker Prize I could not wait, I had to purchase a copy and read it right away.

I was not disappointed, it was just a wonderful family story and I cozied into a comfortable chair with a blanket and a big glass of water.   Two whole days of reading, and I hardly moved it was just that good.  Now as I am writing my thoughts about the book, I see that several books of summary and analysis are already on the market to accompany this good read.

We are once again in Baltimore, Maryland and studying the dynamics of an interesting family.  Four children, a mom and dad all within the HOUSE designed and built by paternal grandfather.  Once again it is a story where the house is a focal character and it’s location is important.   It is son Denny who is the original focal point and he is quite a character and concerns his parents mightily.  I have to admit at the start of the story he is worrisome to try and figure out; he is pivotal to the story and reveals the title of the story at the far end.  The back – stories are near the end of the book too and this makes for a grand amount of thinking about each character, how they got into the story and what is the theme that is truly being exposed and expounded upon.   The book group questions included in the book are mostly about this strange order and why it made the reader work harder to figure the family and motivations.  The characters just seemed nicely odd and interesting.

Abby is a retired social worker and the mother of the four children.  She invites lots of needy folks to the family home and feeds them especially for Thanksgiving.  Red is her contractor husband who is patient, kind and gruff who brought them all to live in his father’s incredible house.  The two older girls work at doing the right thing and keeping the family solidly together and try to help Denny remain a part of the family.   Stem is the youngest and he works with Red and will take over the construction business when Dad retires.  Parents are starting to have health scares as they age and support systems make for mirthful occasions and interesting interplay.

I think folks will enjoy this book very much and I think it will make a great holiday gift or a good read to start off a new year.  I give it and Ms. Tyler high marks for this novel novel.

From the book:

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina.  This is her 17th novel.  Her 11th, BREATHING LESSONS, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. A member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, she live in Baltimore, Maryland.

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