When we ask questions about life, it’s often the why that most unsettles us: why bad things happen, why we didn’t get that job or marry that person—and when the time comes, why we die. Even though that last question kicks off The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot, Marianne Cronin’s first novel brims with so much life.
Lenni Pettersson is terminally ill and perceptive in the way of 17-year-olds who've experienced more trauma than most people their age. She meets 83-year-old Margot Macrae in a memorable first encounter that turns comically conspiratorial: Lenni covers for Margot while Margot’s engaged in pulling something out of a large hospital rubbish bin. They’re both alone in the hospital, and each woman soon realizes that she’s found a kindred spirit.
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Captivated by Margot’s long and storied life, Lenni concocts a creative scheme. They will make paintings of pivotal moments from their lives, one for each of their combined 100 years, as a way to chronicle their stories and transport themselves away from the reality of hospital beds and surgeries. As they paint, their creative body of work begins to surprise them, as well as their fellow artist patients and excited art teacher, Pippa. With the encouragement of hospital chaplain Father Arthur and a favorite nurse, Lenni and Margot press on through memories both painful and breathtaking.
With love and tenderness on every page, this imaginative novel is a joy to read. British novelist Cronin captures all the emotions and desires of these two tenacious women as they relive their pasts in order to make something permanent and leave their mark. Her easy prose sings with real warmth, candor and humor.
Small in scope but large in humanity, The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot illuminates the steadying force of a heartfelt connection. Even in the face of death’s inevitability, friendship can be found, forgiveness can flourish and fun can ease fear.