A Hundred Small Lessons

A Novel

A Hundred Small Lessons

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.
  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501165146 | 
  • September 2018
List Price $16.00 (price may vary by retailer)
Ships on or around September 18, 2018
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for A Hundred Small Lessons includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

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 . . .

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. In the Michael Ondaatje poem, we see the titular phrase “a hundred small lessons” (ch. 12), describing children dreaming of their past lives. How does this idea of dreaming and learning from our previous incarnations relate to the major themes of the book? What are some of the “small lessons” you see in this novel see more

More Books from this Author

The Body in the Clouds
The Railwayman's Wife

About the Author

Ashley Hay
Photograph by Nigel Beebe

Ashley Hay

Ashley Hay is the internationally acclaimed author of the novels A Hundred Small Lessons, The Body in the Clouds, and The Railwayman’s Wife, which was honored with the Colin Roderick Award by the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies and longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the most prestigious literary prize in Australia, among numerous other accolades. She has also written four nonfiction books. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.

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