By S.E. Clancy
Ever since Tori Weston and MamaBear were abandoned by her dad, finances have been tighter than a new pair of skinny jeans. As if keeping her grades up for scholarships and working every spare moment weren’t enough, Tori gets suckered into visiting a retirement home and paired with ancient resident Marigold Williams. After learning she’s the only one to visit Marigold in decades, Tori becomes a regular at Willow Springs. Besides, someone has to help with her history homework.
Few books make it to my read-over-and-over-again shelf. This book now resides there. I will pick this up again and again just to feel all the warmth, all the love, all the kindness and all the laughter this story gives.
First, as a single mom of two early twenty-something girls, I really loved the relationship between Mamabear and Tori. Mamabear is strong, protective, funny and an excellent role model working hard to give Tori as much as she can. I related with her a lot. She set the boundaries for Tori in those tough moments of decision and yet, within those boundaries, we get to see Tori grow and flourish. And their text message conversations were hilarious. It reminded me very much of conversations I’ve had with my girls, usually via text and usually when they were in the next room.
Victoria Grace is the perfect “flail” girl. She’s awkward and funny and puts her foot in her mouth one too many times when confronted with a boy she likes. She’s learned the art of not needing scores of friends and is super faithful to the one friend she does have, Madison, even when Mads gets to be a bit too much for Tori.
She’s a great role model for young girls here. Hard working with the ability to sacrifice wants in order to get things she needs: a car, for example. She works hard for her grades and at her two jobs. Of course, Mamabear is a great example of doing that, having had to raise Tori alone after her dad took off.
Tori signs up to volunteer to spend time with some elderly folks at a local nursing home – actually, Mamabear sorta lets her know that while she has a choice, she also doesn’t have a choice. And there, she meets Marigold.
Marigold is a resident of the nursing home who’s led this wonderfully interesting and somewhat sad life. She’s worked in Hollywood for most of her life, was unlucky in love and, until Tori came along, thought to die alone with no family and no one to visit her. Tori’s unselfishness and tenacity is able to help with the latter but we’re left wondering about the former. What happened in her marriage and who was the starlet she was an assistant to?
Tori enters the nursing home much like I would expect any teenager to; smelling weird smells and wishing she had an invisibility cloak as she walked the halls to get to Marigold’s room. Along the way, she meets Jasmine, another resident with dementia who tells Tori she’s beautiful and she reminds her of her own granddaughter. Every time Jasmine reached for Tori, my heart broke a little just thinking about how many real live Jasmines there are in the world, sitting alone in a nursing home not knowing who they are or why they’re there.
I loved the way Marigold demanded the respect due her, instantly setting the tone for the relationship between her and Tori. Their relationship grows from that mutual respect and they take and give it to each other in droves. As their relationship evolved, it was interesting to watch Marigold interact with Tori, giving her pearls of wisdom and advice. She seems to steal a little bit of Tori’s youth, using it to energize her until the very end. Through Marigold, Tori gets a glimpse of life at the end and is able to size up what really matters in her life; her relationship with her mom and her boyfriend and showing kindness to those around her, even those she doesn’t know like the soldiers she writes to.
Heartwarming story and wonderful characters aside, this book is a gentle call to action. Especially today, when folks seem meaner, more selfish and more polarized than ever, it’s a call to find that kindness inside of you. To step outside of your box and reach out to those you don’t know to help them. To take extra steps to quit under-estimating our young people and pay attention to our elderly, for they have so much wisdom yet still to give. To know family and friends are the most important things we can ever have. To learn to appreciate what we have in the here and now and know that once we do, better things usually show up in our lives.
My advice – Read this book. Then read it again. Then read other books. Then go back to this one and ready it again. A box of tissues is optional but always a good idea.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐