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A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay *plus* A Giveaway

Monday, November 27, 2017

Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving Weekend.  Ours was :  {busy}.  But it was nice to spend some time with both girls although they kept us going nonstop!  My mother was able to eat Thanksgiving dinner with us, too.

Last week I read A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay.  It's extremely well-written, and it's also a very emotional story with complex characters.

According to Goodreads:

When Elsie Gormley leaves the Brisbane house in which she has lived for more than sixty years, Lucy Kiss and her family move in, eager to establish their new life. As they settle in, Lucy and her husband Ben struggle to navigate their transformation from adventurous lovers to new parents, taking comfort in memories of their vibrant past as they begin to unearth who their future selves might be. But the house has secrets of its own, and the rooms seem to share recollections of Elsie’s life with Lucy.

In her nearby nursing home, Elsie traces the span of her life—the moments she can’t bear to let go and the places to which she dreams of returning. Her beloved former house is at the heart of her memories of marriage, motherhood, love, and death, and the boundary between present and past becomes increasingly porous for both her and Lucy.

Over the course of one hot Brisbane summer, two families’ stories intersect in sudden and unexpected ways. Through the richly intertwined narratives of two ordinary, extraordinary women, Ashley Hay weaves an intricate, bighearted story of what it is to be human. 

My Review:

If I had to place the gist of this book into a nutshell (which is a very hard feat given that this story is complicated) I'd say that it's about two mothers who've lived in the same house, and the first one (Elsie) represents the second one's (Lucy's) vardøger.  A vardøger is like a doppelgänger except a vardøger is a spirit that precedes its double.  People believe they've seen the person saying the same things and performing the same actions shortly before the real person arrives.  It's like déjà vu in reverse.  Elsie reared her children in the house, and after her children move her to assisted living and sell her house, Lucy and her family move-in and the process begins again.  

She drifted into the kitchen, still humming along as she flicked on the tea kettle to make tea.  "You even lived in London and you never drank the stuff," Ben had marveled that morning.  "I wonder why you've started now--some late-onset postpartum tastebud glitch?"
"You and your grown-up descriptions."  She'd laughed at him.  The answer was behind the beveled glass of one of the kitchen cabinets.  A teacup, saucerless; a slightly fluted cream cup with a big blue floral blaze...
She thought of returning it to Elsie...Then, on a whim, she'd taken it from the kitchen bench and made herself a cup of tea.
A Hundred Small Lessons, page 25

Lucy Kiss has a very exotic name, and she keeps her maiden name when she marries Ben.  They've lived all over the world because Ben is a journalist, but once baby Tom comes along, they decide to settle down in Ben's hometown of Brisbane, Australia.  The setting fascinated me: Brisbane seems beautiful and terrifying at the same time, and I kept googling wildlife and other elements of the city while reading the book.  The subtropical climate, pythons crossing roads, and torrential rains threatening to flood the Brisbane River add to the moody and panicked atmosphere of this novel.

Lucy seems to have an obsession with the former homeowner Elsie.  She senses Elsie's presence and even believes she has talked to her.  When there is a home invasion and only Lucy's cell phone is taken,  Ben and the police assume that a local teenager stole it.  Ben gets completely exasperated with Lucy's fixation on Elsie, and he wants her to stop talking about her as he persists in telling Lucy that Elsie is a figment of her imagination.  There are times in the book I don't really like Ben because I think he's selfish and that maybe he's gaslighting Lucy.

The sections of the book that focus on Elsie's life are interesting because of one particular event: her portrait sitting.  A neighbor and artist asks Elsie to sit for a portrait, and as an artist I found this part of the book magical.  Ashley Hay's reverent depiction of the artistic process, especially the process of oil painting (my preferred medium) mesmerized me as it did Elsie.  It truly affected me, and I will never take for granted my ability and opportunity to create and paint ever again.

If you enjoy stories about families with complicated relationships, unusual settings, and slightly unnerving atmospheres, then you will love this novel.  Ashley Hay has written a book about two average moms with extraordinary observations about the mundane.  However, there are elements of space and the universe: We might live small lives, but we are a part of something immense and beautiful.  Hay's writing style is lyrical (I love her voice), and her plot is perfectly paced and interesting.  A Hundred Small Lessons is literary, and it would make a great book club selection.  

Disclosure:  I received a copy of A Hundred Small Lessons from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Courtesy of TLC Book Tours, I'm giving away a copy of A Hundred Small Lessons (for American and Canadian readers only).  Good luck!  You won't be disappointed when you read this book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Below please find some useful links for the book,  Ashley Hay, and tour stops.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with Ashley

Website | Facebook

Ashley Hay’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, November 27thThe Sketchy Reader
Tuesday, November 28thJathan & Heather
Tuesday, November 28thLiterary Jo Reviews blog and Instagram
Wednesday, November 29th5 Minutes for Books
Thursday, November 30thBookNAround
Monday, December 4thWest Metro Mommy Reads
Tuesday, December 5thKahakai Kitchen blog and Instagram
Wednesday, December 6thPatricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, December 7thNovel Gossip blog and Instagram
Monday, December 11thKaty’s Library blog and Instagram
Wednesday, December 13thBookchickdi
Thursday, December 14thGirl Who Reads
Monday, December 18thSuzy Approved
Tuesday, December 19thWrite Read Life
Thursday, December 21stFiction Aficionado


  1. Sounds like a great but complicated read! You can't beat reading for relaxation. Love to settle into a good book.

  2. Well-written review! You’ve piqued my curiosity about vardogers and this book alike. It almost sounds supernatural.

  3. Wow-That sounds like a FANTASTIC book. You can put me on the "might win" have some of that in our family-as I think you know. Blessings- and have a great week-xo Diana

  4. I have never been to Australia, it would be a wonderful though, so many sites and areas of the island to see.

  5. This does sound good. Very interesting and it sounds quite well written, too. Yes, that's a drawing I wouldn't mind winning, too! Happy week!

  6. Looks like a great one!! I put it on my download list. Have a wonderful week, Ricki Jill.

  7. WOW, this one sounds like a good one.
    Enjoy the Christmas Season my friend. We are going to start to decorate this week.

  8. I have never been to Australia.

  9. Great review, you make it sound so good!
    thank you:)

  10. After reading your review, I want to read it for the portrait painting part especially!

  11. Thanks for the review.

  12. No, I have never been to Australia.


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

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