Through the richly intertwined narratives of two women from different generations, Ashley Hay, known for her “elegant prose, which draws warm and textured portraits as it celebrates the web of human stories” (New York Times Book Review) weaves an intricate, bighearted tale of the many small decisions—the invisible moments—that come to make a life.
“Readers who loved the quiet introspection of Anita Shreve’s The Pilot’s Wife and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge will enjoy the detailed emotional journeys of Hay’s characters. Their stories will linger long after the final page is turned” (Library Journal).
When Elsie Gormley falls and is forced to leave her Brisbane home of sixty-two years, Lucy Kiss and her family move in, eager to make the house their own. Still, Lucy can’t help but feel that she’s unwittingly stumbled into an entirely new life—new house, new city, new baby—and she struggles to navigate the journey from adventurous lover to young parent.
In her nearby nursing facility, Elsie traces the years she spent in her beloved house, where she too transformed from a naïve newlywed into a wife and mother, and eventually, a widow. Gradually, the boundary between present and past becomes more porous for her, and for Lucy—because the house has secrets of its own, and its rooms seem to share with Lucy memories from Elsie’s life.
Luminous and deeply affecting, A Hundred Small Lessons is a “lyrically written portrayal” (BookPage, Top Pick) of what it means to be human, and how a place can transform who we are. It’s about a house that becomes much more than a home, and the shifting identities of mother and daughter; father and son. Above all else, this is a story of the surprising and miraculous ways that our lives intersect with those who have come before us, and those who follow.
Hay's engaging third novel (after The Railwayman's Wife) explores the lives of two women connected by a house. In Brisbane, Australia, Lucy Kiss; her husband, Ben; and their young son, Tom, have just moved into the home where Elsie Gormley lived for more than 60 years. Elsie's children decided that it was time for her to move to a nursing home because of a recent fall after which she lay helpless on the floor for hours. Through flashbacks, Hay recounts Elsie's life with her husband, Clem, and twins Don and Elaine. Elsie's memories are cleverly juxtaposed against Lucy's early motherhood, and though Lucy has traveled the world with her husband as he changed jobs and Elsie lived in Brisbane her entire married life, the similarities in the two women's lives gradually come to the forefront. Hay's perceptive prose illuminates both Elsie's and Lucy's lives, resulting in a rich dual character study that spans generations.