A Hundred Small Lessons
Sperling & Kupfer, Italy 2020
TwoRoads, UK 2018
Atria, US 2017
Allen & Unwin, Australia 2017
Ashley's most recent novel, A Hundred Small Lessons, was published in Australia in April 2017, in the US and the UK in 2018, and in Italy in 2020. It was shortlisted for both the Fiction category and People's Choice in the 2017 Queensland Literary Awards.
A lyrical novel of two mothers from different generations and how their lives converge in one hot, wet summer.
Luminous and deeply affecting, A Hundred Small Lessons is about the many small decisions – the invisible moments – that come to make a life. The intertwined lives of two women from different generations tell a rich and intimate story of how we feel what it is to be human, and how place can transform who we are. It takes account of what it means to be mother or daughter; father or son. It's a story of love, and of life.
When Elsie Gormley falls and is forced to leave her Brisbane home of sixty-two years, Lucy Kiss and her family move in, with their new life - new house, new city, new baby. Lucy and her husband Ben are struggling to transform from adventurous lovers to new parents and seek to smooth the rough edges of their present with memories of their past as they try to discover their future selves.
In her nearby nursing home, Elsie revisits the span of her life - the moments she can't bear to let go; the haunts to which she might yet return. Her memories of marriage, motherhood, love and death are intertwined with her old house, whose rooms seem to breathe Elsie's secrets into Lucy.
Through one hot, wet Brisbane summer, seven lives - and two different slices of time - wind along with the flow of the river, as two families chart the ways in which we come, sudden and oblivious, into each other's stories, and the unexpected ripples that flow out from those chance encounters.
'A book that overflows with gratitude for the hard, beautiful things of this world,
and for the saving worlds of our imagination.'
— HELEN GARNER
'A luminous evocation of ordinary lives and the city that shapes them.
Ashley Hay brings a pointillist eye to the daily miracles of love, of chance, of belonging.'
— KRISTINA OLSSON
You can listen to Ashley talking with Cassie McCullagh about A Hundred Small Lessons for ABC RN Books & Arts here.
You can listen to Ashley talking with Kate Evans about A Hundred Small Lessons at the 2017 Sydney Writers' Festival here.
'... Ashley Hay explores the ways in which we inhabit spaces: building homes and filling them with our possessions, dreams, regrets, fears and secrets. I was deeply touched by this graceful novel, with its unflinching approach to reality and its gentle undercurrents of sadness, nostalgia and hope. It is a highly recommended read for fans of literary fiction and Hay’s own award-winning The Railwayman’s Wife.' —from the beautiful Books+Publishing five-star review by Paula Gruinseit.
'A Hundred Small Lessons holds powerful truths, simply told … There is no definitive moment; instead, ideas are layered, one small action at a time, until the whole is revealed. Only then can we see the intricacy of the story, in which the river’s flowing quality is present within each sentence, the moods and tides reflective of the transformative power of parenthood.' — Tessa Lunney, Australian Book Review
'With a lovely attention to the detail of things and feelings, Hay enlists our concern for her characters and an appreciation for the revealing echoes they call up in our own lives.' — Katharine England, Adelaide Advertiser
'Hay renders the small details of an undramatic, decent life with tenderness that is touching and compelling… a measured piece of writing that works carefully to create pensive and evocative images of time and place and people.'—Katherine Gillespie, The Australian
'[Hay's] intelligent scrutiny of the human psyche gives depth to this neatly constructed, modest story.' — Louise Swinn, The Sydney Morning Herald
"... I fell in love with each of these characters and their stories. Stories that were so delicately written and woven together that reading this book was like sitting for coffee with two women with wisdom to share ..." Read the full review from Folded Corners & Smudged Screens here.
"A lyrically written portrayal of the lives of two women tied together by memories and the house they share, A Hundred Small Lessons is sure to be enjoyed by readers of Kate Morton, another Brisbane author ..." You can read BookPage's full review – where A Hundred Small Lessons was chosen as the BookPage Top Pick in Fiction for December – over here.
"... a beautifully written, important, quiet gem of a novel that takes hold of you and wends its way into your psyche." Read Sarajane Giddings' review in the US Library Journal here.
'Hay’s unique novel glides like a swan across limpid waters and only after you’ve turned the last page do you realise how deeply you’ve dived.'—Annabel Lawson, Country Style
'Ashley Hay creates a compelling story, charting what it is to be human.'—MiNDFOOD
' ... beautifully written by Ashley Hay ... [A Hundred Small Lessons is] not just about lives ending and beginning, but life in general. And this is a cliché I realise, but it’s a wonderfully heart-warming read. Poignant and surprisingly satisfying.' Read more from debbish.com here.
' ... I couldn't put the book down. I was desperate to find out what was to happen. I was personally scared for all the characters. So I stayed up until 12:30am and when I read that last page, I nearly cried of sadness yet joy. A Hundred Small Lessons was a wonderful read.' Read more from The Book Musketeer here.
'Hay’s prose is stunningly, shatteringly beautiful, and the emotional punch she delivers as the women’s paths ultimately converge makes this seemingly quiet novel a breathless and powerful read.'–San Francisco Book Review
'… a reflective, mystical meditation on interconnectedness and shared experiences.' –Shelf Awareness
'Hay writes beautifully, her prose is gentle, lyrical and there’s a quiet confidence to her writing style. Mothers at any stage in their life could relate to and enjoy this one, recommended for a day where you want to escape with a moving story.' –Novel Gossip
'Someone called [A Hundred Small Lessons] a comfort read. I guess I would describe it that way as well, and thus the existential experience I had yesterday. I saw myself in both women’s places—the old woman having to leave, and the young woman just beginning. I loved them both.' –The Cyberlibrarian
'… an excellent book about love in the past and the present.' –Girl Who Reads
'… an intricate, bighearted story of what it is to be human.' –Bookbub
'… a gently powerful novel from Ashley Hay about life, death, past, present, and finding the extraordinary in the everyday … Hay seamlessly weaves past and present together, finely detailing the minute pains and pleasures in the lives of Elsie and Lucy, and in doing so explores the day-to-day lives of countless women whose stories so often go untold.' –Bookstr
'Her intricately layered story, bolstered by perspectives of an old mother and a young one, tackles the thorny questions of what it means to become a parent and how it feels to be no longer needed as one. Lyrical and tenderhearted, this will delight fans of Liane Moriarty and Kate Hewitt.' –Booklist
'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
'[Hay] slowly weaves a tale of past and present lives, exploring the sense that the gap between the two women is not impervious to sensitive souls. Both Elsie and Lucy are finely and sympathetically drawn, and their lives highlight issues that affect many women. A cerebral tale, slow-moving but profound.' –Kirkus
'Hay truly encapsulates how our lives are interwoven. We are sent on a journey through the decades as small events and echoes of memories overlap, intersect and suddenly converge into a beautiful portrait spanning the past, present and future. Every word has a purpose and resonates … Readers will fall in love with the vivid landscapes of Brisbane and the impeccable, lyrical language that seeps from the pages.' –RT Book Review