The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margo by Marianne Cronin is a heart-warming, funny, and sometimes tear-producing story of a unique friendship. It is a celebration of life and friendship amid the saddest of circumstances.
Lenni, age 17, has a “life-limiting” cancer and is staying in what she calls the terminal lounge of the Glasgow Princess Royal Hospital. She has been left there by strangely absent parents. The head nurse in her ward is uncaring and sometimes cruel. Lenni has little in common with the other patients who are her age. She finds companionship with the hospital Chaplin, Father Arthur. Lenni is quick-witted and her conversations with him about death are often humorous. Father Arthur is unruffled by her questions and is always honest in his answers. However, he is about to retire and be replaced by a less tolerant priest.
Margot, age 83, has a serious heart condition. She had one surgery and is staying in the hospital until she is strong enough for a second surgery. Margot is a talented artist, so when the new Rose Room art studio opens in the hospital, she is one of the first to sign up for the over 80 class. She is very surprised when the young Lenni confidently marches into this octogenarian class and makes herself at home. When Lenni realizes that she and Margot have been alive a combined 100 years, they embark on a journey to make 100 paintings to celebrate their lives.
The two begin telling each other the stories of their lives as they paint. We learn where Lenni’s parents are, her childhood traumas, about her first kiss, etc. Margot has lead an interesting life with two marriages, but neither to the love of her life. As Lenni’s inevitable death draws near, she is comforted by Margot’s stories and the knowledge that their paintings will help them be remembered.
I was a bit perplexed by the Scottish hospital system where a heart patient is allowed to stay over 4 months between surgeries. Other than that, I found this story endearing. These characters will stay with me for a long while.
4.5-Stars. Book club recommended. I listened to the Harper Audio production which is beautifully narrated by Sheila Reid and Rebecca Benson. (I am a sucker for Scottish accents). It was 10 hours and 53 minutes. The paperback is 352 pages. The book was first published on June 1, 2021.