I was afraid this book might be a little “sappy” for me. I like emotional reads but rarely read the kind of books described as “heartwarming”, and this book about a friendship between a dying teenager and an elderly woman fit that bill. But it came highly recommended by Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Best Books of Summer 2022, so I put it on my list, and I’m glad I did. It turned out to be a great blend of humor and sentimentality, it’s character driven, and I love a book that covers many years and different places.
I should say first off that I listened to this as an audiobook, and I’m not sure I would have found this story as funny and as moving without the fantastic narration of Sheila Reed and Rebecca Benson. The scenes between Lenni and Father Arthur were the very best parts of the novel. I don’t always like to read about religion, but I really enjoyed the way Lenni challenged every aspect of Arthur’s work.
But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. The story is set in a Glasgow hospital, where a teenager with a terminal illness, Lenni, meets an elderly woman, Margot, as she’s diving into a rubbish bin. The pair meet next in an art class designed for octogenarians, and Lenni is so taken with Margot that she stays in the class. When the pair discover they are 17 and 83 respectively, they decide to paint a picture for each of their 100 lives. This leaves each of them to tell the other the important moments of their lives.
I should warn readers that Margot’s story, though it follows 83 years, is not action-packed. Her life is instead a somewhat slow-paced read. I didn’t mind that, as it felt more real to me. Though I would have liked to have even more of Lenni’s story, short as it is.
I don’t go looking for tearjerkers when I choose a book; rather, I try to avoid books that are clearly meant to pull at heartstrings. Life is sad enough already I’m, and I’m a very ugly crier. But it won’t surprise you to know that this is a book where you may need a tissue or two.
This book made me think about whether I could write down a memory for each year of my life. Which moments would I choose, and would they be troubling moments or happy ones? And who would read those memories when I’m gone?
A lot of historical fiction is about big drama, but I rather liked this quieter book about two people who hadn’t done exciting things in their lives, but had touched people nonetheless.