“When people say ‘terminal’, I think of the airport. . . . They’ve started to say ‘life-limiting instead now”. Thus, Marianne Cronin initiates her heart-wrenching, wise-cracking, delightful debut novel in which terminally ill, 17-year-old Lenni forges an unbreakable bond with 83-year-old, avant-garde rebel Margot. Even though each is quite ill, both display a joie de vivre, living life to its fullest, acting mischievously, searching for life’s meaning in the May Ward at Glasgow Princess Royal Hospital. With the help of several caring nurses and the hospital chaplain, the protagonists decide to paint their way through their combined ages: 100 years. This legacy will also include Margot’s most life-defining stories, beginning with WWII, written by Lenni who writes more deftly than she paints. Cronin’s book inspires the reader through Lenni’s and Margot’s courageous life-affirming behaviors and escapades. Yes, Lenni’s diagnosis is sad, but she propels the reader into a realistic world of joy and sorrow, constantly questioning everyone to discover as much as she can about life. Margot’s tales delineate her many difficulties but also her accomplishments throughout her lengthy existence and her myriad loves, particularly her love for her son and for her friend and lover Meena. The history of the decades proves fascinating as do the Scottish cultural and social mores of the period. This beautifully written novel is an excellent antidote for present-day travails. Lenni and Margot prevail amidst dire medical circumstances and radiate a beacon of light and hope for all readers. This unusual friendship demonstrates the power of healing across age, nationality, socioeconomics, and health. A rich, inspiring piece of writing!
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin (List Price: $17, Harper Perennial, 9780063017504, 6/1/2021)
Reviewed by Beth O’Brochta, Book No Further in Roanoke, Virginia