The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot

Harper Perennial. Jun. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9780063092761. $26; pap. ISBN 9780063017504. $17. F
DEBUT Lenni, 17, is a patient at the Glasgow Princess Royal Hospital. She is utterly, irresistibly, forthrightly charming. She’s also dying. Long separated from her mother, and unable to bear her father’s crushing grief, Lenni mercifully sends him away to find comfort with his Polish girlfriend. Lenni expands her shrinking world by visiting the chapel to discuss religion with the soon-to-be-retired hospital chaplain, and by regularly attending the hospital’s art classes, where she meets 83-year-old Margot, who is also dying. The two become quick friends, and when Lenni realizes their ages add up to 100, she devises a project where they tell the stories of their lives in 100 drawings. Moving back and forth in time, the narrative beautifully renders Margot’s much-longer life in paintings of a lost baby, a missing husband, a complicated lifelong friendship with a woman she loves, and astronomy. Holding all the pieces together are Lenni’s exquisite honesty, humor, and curiosity at the life she won’t live.
VERDICT Readers will know by page two that sharp-tongued, funny, brave Lenni will break their heart, and that they’ll be all in for the ride. Rich for its cast of characters unique in their messiness, humanity, and kindness, debut author Cronin’s masterpiece won’t let go, long after the last page.
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