A Hundred Small Lessons is a gently powerful novel from Ashley Hay about life, death, past, present, and finding the extraordinary in the everyday.
The lives of elderly Elsie Gormley and young mother Lucy Kiss are tied together by one house. Elsie has recently moved into a retirement home and her children have sold the house in which she lived all her adult life, since marrying her husband Clem. It is the house in which she raised her children, the place where she lived after Clem’s death nearly forty years prior to the events of the novel. Lucy and her husband Ben have bought the house from Elsie’s children, and have moved in with their toddler son.
Image Via Goodreads
As Elsie reflects on her life and the home that she has lost, Lucy becomes fascinated with her home’s former occupant. She finds solace in this new interest while she struggles with the demands of early motherhood: the lack of sleep, her child’s behavior, her own loneliness. Her husband Ben, meanwhile, enjoys his job at a newspaper, seemingly oblivious to her struggles.
This book is not an adventure story, it’s not a fast-paced gripping thriller either, but it doesn’t have to be. It quietly captivates the reader, drawing them into the inner lives of these two women, connected through setting and circumstance in a multitude of strange and unexpected ways.
Hay’s previous novel The Railwayman’s Wife was hailed by Psychology Today as ‘a literary and literate gem,’ and it’s safe to say that with A Hundred Small Lessons, she has once again delivered. Hay seamlessly weaves past and present together, finely detailing the minute pains and pleasures in the lives of Elsie and Lucy, and in doing so explores the day-to-day lives of countless women whose stories so often go untold.
Featured Image Via Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts